Bob and Weave

Musings of an impostor. Welcome to the masquerade.

Peterson I: Foreword

Posted by flyingbk on 04/04/2016

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I had been meaning to read The Contemplative Pastor by Eugene Peterson for quite some time. Usually when I put off reading a book, the reason is always the same: I know it’s going to be one that requires thought and meditation, and I ain’t ready for it. As much as I read, a lot of my reading is shallow; I read while being distracted, whether it be checking social media, watching sports, or lying in bed dreaming of sleep. But because I knew that this book requires engagement and drinking deep draughts, I procrastinated.

Thankfully, I believe it was appropriate that I read it to kick off 2016. This is a book that is just full of great wisdom for ministry. This is one of those books that I desire to go back to time and time again. So what better way to do so than to blog about it? So each Monday, I will be blogging my thoughts as I peruse this book anew. Here’s Part I, with choice thoughts concerning the Foreword.

In the Foreword, there’s a Q&A with Peterson. Here’s one excerpt:

Yes, and my job is not to solve people’s problems or make them happy, but to help them see the grace operating in their lives.
<SNIP>
Sometimes I think all I do as pastor is speak the word “God” in a situation in which it hasn’t been said before, where people haven’t recognized his presence. Joy is the capacity to hear the name and to recognize that God is here. There’s a kind of exhilaration because God is doing something and, even in a little way, it’s enough at the moment.

When I first came to my current church, there was the perpetual temptation to make people happy. If someone was sharing his/her problem with me, my immediate impulse was to figure out how to make them feel better. It’s as if my job as a pastor is to morph into an Advil, to take away the pain temporarily for 12-24 hours (or at least until the following Sunday!).

But I’m reminded now of the principal theme from Lee Eclov’s Pastoral Graces (another book I need to re-read): A pastor’s main job is to hand out grace. He ought to have pockets brimming with grace candies so that they simply fall out in his conversations.

Many times people don’t need a quick fix, or a prescribed solution. They just need their sight adjusted to see God and his ever-efficacious grace at work. I pray that I will remember this going forward.

I’ll end this post with another quote from the Q&A.

A second thing about praying in community is that, when I pray in a congregation, my feelings are not taken into account. Nobody asks me when I enter the congregation, “How do you feel today? What do you feel like praying about?” So the congregation is a place where I’m gradually learning that prayer is not conditioned or authenticated by my feelings. Nothing is more devastating to prayer than when I begin to evaluate prayer by my feelings, and think that in order to pray I have to have a certain sense, a certain spiritual attentiveness or peace or, on the other side, anguish.

Amen.

 

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