It was a delight to reconnect with Jan and Eugene Peterson last week. Eugene was speaking at the launching of the Centre of Christian Spirituality for Rocky Mountain College… across the street from us in Calgary.* Twelve years ago Kathy and I were privileged to be in a small group with Jan and Eugene while I was an M.Div. student at Regent College in Vancouver.
As always, Dr. Peterson's words were simple and yet astoundingly profound. The way of Jesus, he said, is to be human, to be conversational, and to be ordinary. Any other way is a false way. Here are some highlights:
1. The Jesus Way is to Be Human~ "When it comes down to it, I'd rather be like God than to have God be like me." Eugene said that we all want to be godlike… and this was the reason for our Fall in the first place… we wanted to know what God knows, to rule like God rules. But God, out of love, took on human flesh in order that we might know what it means to be fully human. Jesus was an actual human person. Jesus was not a principle nor an idea. Jesus came as a human. He spent 9 months in the womb- "just like I did," said Dr. Peterson. "Many of my friends and family were named after his friends and family," he said.
2. The Jesus Way is to Be Conversational~ Jesus is the Word. And Jesus uses our language to talk with us, just as we talk with our children. Human speech. No billboard or bulletin board. Jesus is conversational. The same words that spoke Creation into being are spoken to us. He speaks in a way that every 10 year old can understand. "Jesus" is a personal name… and "Way" is a metaphor describing our primary link to God. The hard part of the Jesus Way is to embrace the fact that "we have no access to this language unless we enter into conversation. We cannot be a spectator or bystander. God speaks to you. His language cannot not be understood as impersonal." We participate in conversation with God through Jesus.
3. The Jesus Way is to Be Ordinary~ "It is a well-worn path that millions have walked. Anyone is welcome. No special equipment is necessary. Levitation is not a spiritual discipline." You can do it. The middle-aged can do it. Children can do it. Elderly can do it. Where other spiritualities are impossible and hard to access, elaborate and secretive with magical manipulations and impersonal rituals… Jesus presents a way for us to know God through knowing him as a human in conversation. There is no inside track or special system. The Jesus Way is ordinary… a resolute, obedient way to walk… but it's just a walk. It's not consumeristic, not miracle-mongering. You have no excuse, none at all, for not doing it. Nothing in any way disqualifies you from being qualified to enter the walk… unless you reject the conversation. To not be ordinary is to miss the adventure of Jesus. You can't hurry it. There are no shortcuts. There are no steroids. It is a pregnancy. It is urgent… but not hurried. It is a patient endurance. An ordinary walk in conversation with the human Jesus.
*Thanks to Dr. Joyce Peasgood at Rocky Mountain College for arranging this event. What a great start to the Centre of Christian Spirituality!