Amidst a torrent of Christian books it can be a challenge to find stuff worth reading that will challenge, inspire and encourage the reader to scurry back to the scriptures and reflect on what God is saying and doing . . . in “The Word Made Flesh”, Peterson has written a small book of genius . . . reflecting on the stories Jesus told and the prayers Jesus prayed it is powerful, intimate and full of insight.
Some well trodden passages are explored in a fresh way . . . my absolute favourite in all scripture is explored in this book, John 17 . . . and, just to give you a glimpse of how much is here (270 pages is pretty sparce for Peterson) . . . I will give you some excellent stuff from the man himself . . .
“There is nothing quite a destructive to the gospel of Jesus Christ as the use of language that dismisses the way Jesus talks and prays and takes up insted the rhetoric of smiling salesman or vicious invective. If, in the name of Jesus, truth is eviscerated into facts, salvation depersonalised into a strategy, or love abstracted into a slogan or principle, the gospel is blasphemed.” (page 220)
“Don’t miss this: Father, Son and every last one of us by the prayer and the cross of Jesus and the work of the Holy Spirit are made one.” (page 223)
For the Church (and by that, at this point, I mean the Anglican Church at this juncture in our history) the following words need to be read and thought of carefully before General Synod next year . . . if anyone reads these words, do pass this on!
Peterson comments on the constant refrain throughout the prayer that, “they may be one, even as we are one.”
He says this,
“The repetitive urgency with which Jesus prays that we may be one, just as he is one with the Father, throws deliberate acts of schism into sharp relief as acts of insurrection, an erruption of violent willfulness in the very presence of the one who is interceding for our relational unity with one another according to the unity of the Trinity. The frequency of this violence done to the body of Christ, a violence justified by rationalisations without end, is nothing less than astonishing. Defying Jesus in the cause of Jesus. A huge scandal.” (page 224)
What scandal is being enacted if . . . people who are currently part of the Church of England feel they can be no longer?
I am an egalitarian. However, I have brothers and sisters in Christ who are not. We are one not because of our agreements or disagreements, not because of our theology or doctrine or practice – but because we confess Christ, and in and through the Spirit – we are one.
Peterson goes on to say,
“When Peter discovered a man of faith in the secularised city of Caesarea in the unlikely person of a Roman soldier, Cornelius, he said, “I perceive that God is no respecter of persons.” (Acts 10:34). Is it permissible to add to Peter’s sentance “or of churches?” I think so.” (page 225)
As Peterson identifies when he talks about the unity in the Trinity – it is not something that can be copied – as we look at God, we cannot “copy” a model.
“It is a Trinitarian relationship – Father, Son, Holy Spirit – of reciprocity to be entered.” (page 227)
Even as our Diocese’ finish voting on Women Bishops, and we move towards next year . . . do we need to enter this prayer of Jesus (and we need to remember, this is Jesus’ prayer, he is taking the responsibility!) . . . I do not want to see people leave the Church of England . . . but, whatever happens, I am comforted as I recognised that it is not the Church of England that Jesus is praying for . . . and, to finish with this thought from Peterson,
“The unity for which Jesus prays is articulated exclusively in the language of personal relationship and willing participation. An imposed unity is no part of Jesus. All of us today who are baptised and named Christian are being prayed into maturity in the company of “the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church.”” (page 229)