Square One
As we began our Alive Again sermon series, in the traditional service we closed worship by singing, “Lord, I want to be a Christian in my heart, in my heart; Lord, I want to be a Christian in my heart.” To many of you that may sound like a very simplistic thought for a congregation that has been around since 1888. However, I would suggest that it’s good for all of us to get back to basics now and again.
I’m reminded of an idea called Square One. I first encountered this idea some time ago at a gathering of the clergy of our Conference where we listened to Bishop Will Willimon speak. As he spoke, he talked about Eugene Peterson’s idea of Square One. He said that as Christian disciples, we need to return to Square One periodically – to get back to basics.
So what is Square One?
I remember playing with our daughters, Rebecca and Mary Catherine, when they were very little – young enough to stay on the little blanket that we set them upon on the floor. I would pick up a little toy – we would both enjoy playing with it – and then I would hide it behind my back.
The same thing happened with both of them. When it was in front of their faces, they were engaged. When the toy went out of their sight, they immediately began to look for something else to play with. They were no longer interested in the other toy. In fact, it was as if it no longer existed. They had not yet learned Object Permanence. If you can’t see it, it doesn’t exist. 
Peterson’s idea is that this notion of Object Permanence lends itself very nicely to our spiritual lives. We begin by experiencing the presence of God in visual or concrete ways: we experience the wonder of nature as it testifies to its Creator, we have in front of us the love of a parent as they share the love of the Father with us, etc.
Eventually, though, we must learn spiritual Object Permanence – that God is still there, even when we can’t readily perceive him. It’s a concept we call Faith. In order to build faith, we need to return to Square One over and over again.
Square One is the starting point – it’s the place where we acquire (and then re-acquire) spiritual object permanence. This is the place from which we launch the distinctly human journey of faith.
What do we encounter at Square One that is so powerful? It’s the Word of God. Square One is “God said.” God’s Word is extraordinary: God’s Word makes things happen – he makes something happen in us. The imperative is a primary verb form in Holy Scripture: “Let there be light… Go… Come… Repent… Believe… Be still… Be healed… Get up… Ask… Love… Pray….” And the consequence, the intended result, of God Says? It is obedience.
It is at Square One that we hear the Word of God; and, then we step forth in faith into whatever lies ahead. But, periodically, we need to return to Square One. We used to live there. We heard God there at one point.
Not only do we help children get there, initially. As adults we need to help one other periodically get back to Square One.
You see, it’s not about getting to Square One and staying there. It’s not a place of rest, or a place to stay. It’s a place to listen … and then to respond…to obey.
It is the hub of a life of discipleship. We advance in the Christian life by hearing God’s Word…obeying God’s Word…then returning to Square One to hear another Word…then obeying that Word.
It is at Square One that we learn spiritual Object Permanence over and over again. We go back over and over to experience the Presence of God so that we can again journey forth in faith – confident that the One that we may not be able to see is still there.
As you and I strive to become Alive Again in our Christian faith, we need to invite one another to go back to basics, to Square One, so that we can truly sing, we want to be like Jesus in our heart, in our heart; Lord, we want to be like Jesus in our heart.
See you at Square One,
Last Published: September 1, 2021 1:57 PM
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