I need to read books like this one, even if it is long, delightful, unsettling, funny, valuable, and odd all at the same time. I’ve read Peterson’s A Long Obedience and his The Contemplative Pastor, and since then I made a “book-berith” (book-covenant) with myself to read or re-read at least one of his books each year. In case you haven’t read much of Eugene Peterson, he’s sort of a good mixture of Karl Barth, John Calvin, Will Willimon, Wendell Berry, Marva Dawn, and Marilynne Robinson all put together – with a little Bernard of Clairvaux as well.
Peterson is a word-smith, a story-teller, a follower of Jesus who stays away from the bells and whistles sort of American spirituality. He isn’t afraid to slow down, enjoy the sparrows, and describe in 50 pages the beautiful fact that Jesus-who-is-God made everything and upholds everything, from meadow to mountain. Here’s a section he wrote about Sabbath, the first day of the week consecrated by Jesus in his resurrection.
“Sabbath is a deliberate act of interference, an interruption of our work each week, a decree of no-work so that we are able to notice, to attend, to listen, to assimilate this comprehensive and majestic work of God, to orient our work in the work of God.”
“When we remember the Sabbath and rest on it we enter into and maintain the rhythm of creation. We keep time with God. Sabbath-keeping preserves and honors time as God’s gift of holy rest: it erects a weekly bastion against the commodification of time, against reducing time to money, reducing time to what we can get out of it, against leaving no time for God or beauty or anything that cannot be used or purchased. It is a defense against the hurry that desecrates time.”
I’m one who is appreciative of a liturgical Lord’s Day service, where the rhythm of the liturgy reflects the orderly rhythm of salvation: God is here, humble yourselves, receive his forgiveness in Christ, sing to him, hear him speak, and leave with his Amen resting upon you. I feel badly for those who go to worship only to be more busy and chatty there than they are during the week. Here’s how Peterson puts it.
“Pastors and congregational leaders commonly cram the Lord’s Day with work: committees, meetings, projects, mission and social activities. Much doing and much talking displace Sabbath quietness and stillness. Typically, congregational leaders, knowing that they have these people all to themselves for a few hours just one day a week, conspire to get them involved in anything and everything they think will be good for their souls and good for the church. Well-intentioned but dead wrong. All the leaders do is get them so busy for the Lord that they have no time for the Lord, pour in so much information about God that they never have a chance to listen to God.”
It’s been fun making my way through this book. I’m not convinced by everything Peterson says, but I could use a good dose of his reverence for words, for the ordinary, for attending to God in the day-to-day grind we call life.
Almost forgot: WTS books has Christ Plays on clearance for under 14.00 – get one before they’re gone!