Eugene Peterson’s father was a butcher. He had a shop right off of Main Street in Kalispell Montana, just a few blocks from where the family lived. Eugene used to accompany his father to the shop, and as he tells in his book The Pastor, he learned much about ministry by watching how his father cared for his parishioners. They never congregated for corporate worship, but the local butcher shop was a part of the Kalispell community.
“I am quite sure now that the way I as a pastor came to understand congregation had its beginnings in the “congregational” atmosphere of our butcher shop. Congregation is composed of people, who, upon entering a church, leave behind what people on the street name or call them. A church can never be reduced to a place where goods and services are exchanged. It must never be a place where a person is labeled. It can never be a place where gossip is perpetuated. Before anything else, it is a place where a person is named and greeted, whether implicitly or explicitly, in Jesus name. A place where dignity is conferred.
“I first learned that under my father’s priesthood in his butcher shop.”
About his time in seminary, Peterson wrote “I grew up in a Christian home and was familiar from an early age with the Bible. I read it daily, memorized it, and on entering adolescence argued with my friends over it. But quite frankly, I wasn’t really fond of it. I knew it was important, knew it was God’s word. To tell the truth, I was bored with it. More often that not it was a field of contention, providing material for truths that were contested by warring factions. Or it was reduced to rules and principles that promised to keep me out of moral potholes. Or, and this was the worst of all, it was flattened into clichés and slogans and sentimental godtalk intended to inspire and motivate.
“It took only three or four weeks in Professor Traina’s classroom to become aware of a seismic change beginning to take place within me regarding the Bible. Until now, I and all the people I associated with had treated the Bible as something to be used – a textbook with information about God, used as a handbook to lead people to salvation, used as a weapon to defeat the devil and all his angels, used as an antidepressant. Now, incrementally, week by week, semester by semester, my reading of the Bible was becoming a conversation.”
Peterson was a pastor and a poet. A theologian and a caring shepherd. He knew biblical knowledge and understanding of the scriptures are not an end in themselves. They are intended to lead us into a relationship with the Author and Finisher of our faith.
“My theological education had pivoted on Martin Luther and John Calvin, brilliant and comprehensive thinkers, writers and exegetes of scripture. They taught me to think largely and passionately about God and the scriptures. For them, reforming the Christian life was primarily (but not entirely) a matter of recovering right thinking, understanding doctrine, interpreting scripture. Teresa (of Avila) and John (St. John of the Cross) worked from the other end. They took up matters of the soul, reforming Christian living by taking seriously the life of prayer and recovering the ways of prayer. They gave themselves to discerning the illusions and pitfalls that interfere with receiving what God is giving and reducing prayer to a self help project with no concern for relationship and love, adoration and mystery.”
“My work is not to fix people,” he wrote. “It is to lead people in the worship of God and to lead them in living a holy”
Eugene Peterson, who died this week, will be remembered by most people as the man who gave us a poetic paraphrase of the entire Bible, published as The Message. But his legacy goes beyond that. His influence will not end with his life.
May the same be said for each of us as we seek to faithfully follow Jesus.
The forecast looks good. The land has been cleared. And it’s time for a picnic!
But wait. This is more than just a picnic on our church property. So much more.
Like how about a photo booth where you can get pictures with friends or have your family Christmas photo taken?
Or how about cornhole and Kan-jam? Not sure what those are? They are listed among the top 10 backyard games, as you can see here.
Or how about a bowling alley. Okay, I have no idea how we’re going to make that happen. Ask Matt.
Should be a perfect autumn Sunday afternoon! Here again are all the details.
There is high drama happening at the King’s Gate in Persia during the twelfth year in the reign of King Xerxes. The news is about to get really bad for the Jews, all because of a root of bitterness that is festering in the heart of a man named Haman.
We’ll get all the details this Sunday.
See you in church.
Soli Deo Gloria!