Jesu juva

Andrew Peterson, Adorning the Dark: Thought on Community, Calling, and the Mystery of Making (2019) [link]. Adorning the Dark

This is an absolutely marvelous book if you (1) are a fan of Andrew Peterson, (2) are interested in Christians in the arts, or (3) read books. (Okay, I threw the last one in, because I think this could have very broad appeal.)  Peterson, of course is a singer-songwriter living near Nashville who is also involved the lives of a number of creative Christians in an online community called The Rabbit Room.*

You likely know Peterson as a thoughtful singer-songwriter and (perhaps) a gleeful author — mostly of fantasy novels — but in this case his thoughtful faith plays out in a string of reflections and personal anecdotes about the faith and the creative calling. Adorning the Dark is memoir and (in the best sense) sermon.

There are many delightful anecdotes referencing the influences on his thought, including some usual suspects (C.S. Lewis, Rich Mullins, Wendell Berry) and some decidedly unusual suspects (The Dragonlance novels, Bruce Springsteen, James Taylor). Tolkien and Dylan were relatively late additions. By far, though, it is friends and fellow believers who seem to have built themselves into Peterson’s life.

His musings are both theologically insightful and deeply personal. As an example, at the end of a chapter on selectivity, he writes:

Selectivity means choosing what not to say. . . .

The Gospels . . . . only tell about a small portion of Jesus’ time on earth. At the end of John’s Gospel he talks about selectivity: “Now there are also many other things that Jesus did. Were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written” (John 21:25). By the guidance of the Holy Spirit, certain things were left out of the story and certain things, the things we needed, were selected to remain. To carry the principle one step further, the Incarnation itself is a remarkable example of what I’m talking about. God, full of all power and glory, utterly unapproachable by mortals, became flesh and dwelt among us. The incomprehensible, uncontainable God became a man with whom we could walk, talk, and eat. He spoke through his creation, but we didn’t listen. He had spoken through the prophets, but we didn’t listen. Then he became a man with a mouth, spoke to his disciples, demonstrated the nature of the Father’s love, and though it’s true that some still didn’t listen, some did, and the world has never been the same. Jesus, a concentration of all the thunder of God’s glory, looked us in the eye and opened his glorious heart to his sons and daughters.

The gospel is the sweetest thing I know.

Pp. 113-14. To cite John 21:25 as an example of selectivity is proper and obvious — but to point to the Incarnation itself as an example of God being selective is brilliant! Read that description again:

The incomprehensible, uncontainable God became a man with whom we could walk, talk, and eat.

He spoke through his creation, but we didn’t listen.

He had spoken through the prophets, but we didn’t listen.

Then he became a man with a mouth, spoke to his disciples, demonstrated the nature of the Father’s love, and though it’s true that some still didn’t listen, some did, and the world has never been the same.

That is deep theology. To cap it off with “The gospel is the sweetest thing I know” is to draw the reader in to the winsome good news that God has spoken personally and directly to each one of us.Jesu juva

Finally, this is a motivating book, for Peterson is not focused on delighting us so much as encouraging us:

If you’re familiar with Bach, you may know that at the bottom of his manuscripts, he wrote the initials, “S.D.G.” Soli Deo Gloria, which means “glory to God alone.” What you may not know is that at the top of his manuscripts he wrote, “Jesu Juva,” which is Latin for “Jesus, help!” There’s no better prayer for the beginning of an adventure. Jesus, you’re the source of beauty: help us make something beautiful; Jesus, you’re the Word that was with God in the beginning, the Word that made all creation: give us words and be with us in this beginning of this creation; Jesus, you’re the light of the world: light our way into this mystery; Jesus, you love perfectly and with perfect humility: let this imperfect music bear your perfect love to every ear that hears it.

P. 8.

Amen, and let’s go! Highly recommended.

*rabbitroom.com. Apparently the “Rabbit Room” was a back room of the “Eagle and Child” — the Oxford pub where the Inklings (C.S. Lewis, Warren Lewis, J.R.R Tolkien, Charles Williams, Owen Barfield, and others) congregated for readings and conversation.

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