Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Eugene Peterson

Eugene Peterson is most known for his contemporary paraphrase of the Bible known as The Message. In this fresh paraphrase of Scripture, Peterson's exegetical abilities are strengthened by his way with speaking in the language of today, forged by some thirty years of pastoring.

"The pastorate," says Peterson, "is one of the few places in our society where you can live a truly creative life." Indeed, this man has been creative. With eighteen books, numerous contributions to others, and dozens of journal and magazine articles to his credit, his writing career has been nothing short of prolific. No minor accomplishment for a man who at the same time pastored Christ Our King Presbyterian Church in Bel Air, Maryland, for twenty-nine years before retiring from the pastorate in 1991.

Among Peterson's books are several designed from one pastor to other pastors. In his book, Under the Unpredictable Plant, Peterson used the story of Jonah to speak to the vocation of being a pastor. Two brief quotations follow from this book:

I want to study God’s word long and carefully
so that when I stand before you and preach and teach
I will be accurate.
I want to pray, slowly and lovingly,
so that my relation with God will be inward and honest.
And I want to be with you, often and leisurely,
so that we can recognize each other as companions
on the way of the cross and
be available for counsel and encouragement to each other.

I want to be a pastor.
I want to lead people in worship each Lord’s Day
in such a way that they will be brought
into something large and beautiful -
into God and his salvation (not reduced and demeaned).
And I want to be with them through the days of the week
at those times when they need verification
or clarification
of God’s continuing work and will in their lives
(not promoting sure-fire moral schemes,
not bullying them into churchly conformity)
so that they can live orginally and praisingly.

Few of us will take the time or consider ourselves qualified to re-write scriptures in contemporary language...
but consider the possibility that your lifestyle
may be someone's introduction to God's Message for the world today.
You may not be called to be a pastor...
but is that any reason not to study God's word
long and faithfully
so that you may be prepared
to share it accurately when the occasion presents itself;
or to pray slowly and lovingly
to maintain an inward and meaningful
relationship with God;
or to be available to others
for counseling and encouragement.
May your Journey this day lead you inwardly to God and outwardly to others.