I’m not sure I’ve banged on about my love of Eugene Peterson enough on this blog recently. He’s the kind of author whose books I get and then they sit on my shelf with a kind of warm glow about them waiting for just the right moment for me to sink into a chair and swim in his beautiful writing once more. I’ve had The Pastor on my shelf for the last year, and this week was the right time to delve into it. It’s a book you should read, yes you, whoever you are reading this right now. Whether you are a pastor or not. Usually it takes me a good few months to get through a Eugene book, sentences and paragraphs are usually enough to make me stop in my tracks and have to ponder on them for a good while before daring to go any further. The beauty is sometimes just to much to take. When reflecting on this with husbandface we both confessed to not really understanding some of what he says but that he says it in such a pretty God soaked way makes us love it anyway.
The Pastor however is more of a story, the story of his calling to be a pastor and how he worked that out in one context for 30 years. It’s a book that cuts through all the crazy rubbish that surrounds church leadership manuals, a book that rejects programmes and schemes to grow our churches, a book that says there is something deeper going on in our life together as the body of Christ here on earth. He sometimes feels like a lone voice in a church gone mad on visible results right now but he knows the reality that life as a pastor is about calling attention to God in the everyday ordinary walking around life that we live in.
I started it in some trepidation thinking it might just make me resentful of my own church leaders and want to turn them into mini Eugene’s. Thankfully it didn’t do that, it made me very glad that I am part of a small church family that can’t do the outwardly impressive stuff, we have to plod on seeking to see God at work in and through our lives together and in our city as we live, work and play here. It made me pray for my own pastor and resolve to buy him a copy (hold me to that if you are reading Carl) for his encouragement and reminder that he’s doing a vital job in our lives.
It’s not a book that tells all the story, it tells the bits of the story that are needed to remind us all that this life with God thing is worked out in the everyday, that we come together each week to remember that and that God works over long long periods of time. Wonderfully it says that all in a beautifully written way. So off you go, get it now and enjoy the world of being rooted in one place with one people and a God who does everyday miracles and is in it for the long haul. Then pray for your church leaders. They have a crazy job that is often overlooked, is too tempting for their pride and are called to pay attention to the unseen in a world obsessed with the seen.
Here’s a quote that pretty much sums it up, oddly not from Eugene himself but from a seminarian on a retreat he was leading:
“When I get a congregation, I want to be a patient pastor. I want to have eyes to see and ears to hear what God is doing and saying in their lives. I don’t want to judge them in terms of what I think they should be doing. I want to be a witness to what God is doing in their lives, not a school mistress handing out grades for how well they are doing something for God. I think I see something unique about being a pastor that I had never noticed: the pastor is the one person in the community who is free to take men and women seriously as they are, appreciate them just as they are, give them the dignity that derives from being the ‘image of God’, a God created being who has eternal worth without having to prove usefulness or be good for anything… I don’t want to be so impatient with the mess that I am not around to see the miracle being formed. I don’t want to concieve of my life as pastor so functionally that the mystery gets squeezed out of both me and the congregation.”