I’m re-reading Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places for Advent this year. I continue to be amazed at the pastoral wisdom that Eugene Peterson has packed into the pages of this book. As I read slowly through the pages, I’m more and more convinced that spiritual theology is one of the most important disciplines for the pastor.
A passage I read a few days back has really stayed with me, and I want to share it here. In it, Peterson is discussing the ways that accepting Jesus as the definitive revelation of God makes it impossible for us to make up our own individualized spiritualities. Peterson may very well have been writing during this time of year when he wrote, “…we can’t get around him or away from him; Jesus is the incarnation of God.”
In the first words here, he goes back to the theme I’ve been hitting hard lately of the importance of “place” (a better word than context, I think). Incarnation is incredibly important for elevating the value of being a particular person in a particular place:
Jesus prevents us from thinking that life is a matter of ideas to ponder or concepts to discuss. Jesus saves us from wasting our lives in pursuit of cheap thrills and trivializing diversions. Jesus enables us to take seriously who we are and where we are without being seduced by intimidating lies and delusions that fill the air, so that we needn’t be someone else of somewhere else (p. 33).
However, it’s the expansion of this that really strikes me,
Jesus keeps our feet on the ground, attentive to children, in conversation with ordinary people, sharing meals with friends and strangers, listening to the wind, observing the wildflowers, touching the sick and wounded, praying simply and unselfconsciously. Jesus insists that we deal with God right here and now, in the place where we find ourselves and with the people we are with. Jesus is God here and now (pp 33-34).
These are the “Christ-practices” that are essential for any good pastor. I would even suggest that the pastoral life well-lived also inculcates these practices in the group of believers they shepherd. If you’re like me you’ll probably find some who don’t do these things, but you’ll find many others who already do them, but don’t realize that they are part of the amazing good news of God! Part of our job is to help people understand how many of the simple practices of their daily lives are caught up in the narrative of God’s mission to reclaim the world.
Maybe this year, as we prepare to remember God’s Incarnate Son, we can cling to the Christ-practices of the here and now. Maybe we can embody the way Christ’s Incarnation shows us a faith is earthy and real as we become more and more like the One who came and is to come.