Tuesday, October 12, 2010

eugene peterson on the jesus way

Over the past 48 hours I have had the extraordinary experience of hearing live lectures by Eugene Peterson (in Charlotte) and Andy Crouch and Rob Bell (in Durham). I also caught a portion of a lecture by N. T. Wright, but missed the greater portion of it. The following is a brief reflection on Peterson.

Eugene Peterson was scheduled to speak at Covenant Presbyterian Church in Charlotte. He was introduced to an absolutely filled Fellowship Hall by my good friend Tom Currie, who is the Dean of the Union Presbyterian Seminary in Charlotte. Peterson sat in an oversized chair; he is 78 years old, and remarked that, of late, standing for an hour had become more difficult. Peterson then proceeded to reflect on "The Jesus Way", the title of the third in a series of five books on spiritual (or, as he prefers, "lived" theology). The lecture was a carefully crafted meditation on the nature of Jesus, particularly his humanity, and on the idea that God has become human and has a name, and is thus personal, in contrast to the abstract gods of Israel's neighbors. He described the Jesus Way as an alternative to the consumer culture, a culture that is dehumanizing and does violence to us and to others. Said more positively, the Jesus Way is conversational and ordinary, a path not taken by most persons in his own day and in ours, a way that includes no shortcuts, that is truly, in the words of an early book, "a long obedience in the same direction".

The material was taken from the book of the same title, with an ending drawn from the last book in the series, Practicing Resurrection, which is a reflection on Ephesians. The question and answer period was much more engaging than I had expected; the questions, mercifully, were not statements but genuine inquiries, and his answers were revealing. What about other ways that have nothing to do with Jesus? Jesus is the unique revelation that we have received; we do not have to defend or explain other ways...it is mystery...we can say we do not know! Who was his favorite poet? David, but later T.S. Eliot and W. H. Auden. What were the essential disciplines? Scripture, Prayer and worshiping in a congregation. What did worshiping in a congregation mean? Worshiping with people we did not like and learning to love our enemies! What was non-spiritual theology? God-talk divorced from life. Which of his books was his favorite? This was like asking which child was his favorite...but when he had written "Five Smooth Stones", he felt that he had said what he wanted to say, and the later books were a reworking of that one. He also commented that Practicing Resurrection is a polemic against romanticizing the church.

"I would rather be like God than God be like me", Peterson noted, early in the lecture. "In becoming human," he continued, "could God have made it any easier?" And yet we try to construct non-human, non-personal, non-relational forms of faith, and along the way we re-imagine God, which is idolatry. The alternative, and the way that leads to life, is the Jesus Way.

Next: Andy Crouch on Culture Making


Blogger John Meunier said...

I have to agree with him the Five Smooth Stones is a brilliant book.

7:45 PM  
Blogger Tricia said...

Practicing the "way" of Jesus is at the heart of His message! Eugene Peterson seems to have understood that!

8:41 PM  

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