This post will summarize Eugene Peterson’s Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places, chp. 1 pp. 85-108. This is a short section, but it is better than biting off too big of a chunk that extends to nearly 50 pages and ends with great reflections on Sabbath and Wonder (next week). Whether you’ve read the book or not, we welcome your interactions.
This section deals with the second grounding text when it comes to Christ playing in Creation. The first one was Genesis 1–2 and this one deals with the Gospel of John. Good stuff here.
“St. John’s Gospel is a rewriting of Genesis 1–2” (85). What Peterson means by this transcends by far the notion of prooftexting: he’s dealing with macroscopic vision and themes. The Word that created is now flesh.
“It is not uncommon among people like us to suppose if we lived in another place or a better neighborhood…. St. John’s Gospel says, Forget it” (86).
John sees Jesus as God’s creative Word continuing to speak. It is easy to get lost in Peterson’s prose and forget that he is showing that Christ plays, still does his work of dancing the music of God, in Creation — as opposed (as John Frye picked up last week) to Gnostic desires to flee our locatedness and rootedness and physicalness. We are here; we are summoned to work out the gospel where we are — not in some utopian perfected place where everything will be better.
1. Ego Eimi (Greek for “I am”): seven times John picks up the Divine Name (Yahweh) and alludes to it in this “I am” stuff in John. It evokes intimacy and leisure — nothing not relational, nothing in a hurry.
2. The Signs: and his off-handed comment may define them: “catch a glimpse of the ‘beyond’ in our backyards” (92). We are summoned to look into creation not just at creation. Faith is required to see “into” Jesus. Why? because the “sign is a signpost” (94). Peterson goes through each sign with these themes in mind.
3. The Glory: God, the glorious one, dwells in Jesus Christ and this means we have to revise, radically and even more radically, our sense of what “glory” is. Here he is: “Jesus ignorable, Jesus unimpressive, Jesus dismissed, Jesus marginal, Jesus suffering, Jesus rejected, Jesus derided, Jesus hung on a cross, and — the final and irrefutable indignity — Jesus dead and buried” (101). There is the glory.
“Jesus takes the brightest word in our vocabularies and plunges it into the darkest pit of experience, violent and excruciating death… we have entered a mystery” (102).
Peterson exploits the idea that Jesus “has moved into our neighborhood.” Jesus is the access for us to our creation as the time and place to believe and to love.
Frankly, this section takes some getting used to: the way Christ plays in creation collides with everything we know. He plays by descending, by dying, by rising, by ascending. It takes faith and love to play that game.