Today’s Eugene Peterson Quote:
As a pastor, I don’t like being viewed as nice but insignificant. I bristle when the high-energy executive leaves the place of worship with the comment, “This was wonderful, Pastor, but now we have to get back to the real world, don’t we?” I bristle and want to assert my importance. I want to force the recognition of the key position I hold in the economy of God and in his economy if only he knew it. Then I remember that I am a subversive. My long-term effectiveness depends on my not being recognized for who I really am. If he realized that I actually believe the American way of life is doomed to destruction, and that another kingdom is right now being formed in secret to take its place, he wouldn’t be pleased at all. If he knew what I was really doing and the difference it was making, he would fire me. I believe that the kingdoms of this world, American and Venezuelan and Chinese, will become the Kingdom of our God and Christ, and I believe this new Kingdom is already among us. That is why I’m a pastor, to introduce people to the real world and train them to live in it. Eugene Peterson (from Chapter Three, The Contemplative Pastor pp.37-38)
I love the already-here but not-yet Kingdom of God. I also love a good mystery. And any honest study and application of God’s in-breaking Kingdom will result in a mystery so deep and rich, not even Sherlock Holmes could unpack the story.
As Peterson states here, the truly difficult question facing all of us earth-dwellers is this: “What is really real?” Everything in us and everything we’ve been taught since we were children tries to convince us that the world we presently live in is reality. As the ‘high energy executive’ Peterson refers to here so sadly states, “Now, (after meeting with God) we have to get back to the real world.” How unfortunate that so many of us have bought into that line of thinking. That somehow the ‘real world’ is the place you and I have to venture into on a daily basis, slashing our way through this ‘real’ jungle called life, making a way for ourselves and our loved ones. This ‘real’ world has its’ dangers, no doubt, but isn’t it unfortunate how we lose track of the fact that this ‘real’ world we presently live in is only temporary?
Too bad how we forget that the New Testament teaches us that this ‘passing-away’ world you and I live in today has been invaded by a whole new world. A world ruled by God. And now, the mystery begins.
With the coming of Jesus of Nazareth, a new world, a different world, the ‘real’ world from outside of this temporary world, has forcefully inserted itself on us. In actuality, God’s ‘real’ and ‘eternal’ world has forced its way in on this false, temporary place we call life. Quietly, while our world was sleeping, the ruling King of this alien God-world was born into our world in some far-off, distant village, un-noticed by the rulers of this planet. A baby slipped into our world without a sound. Only a few humans were there to see it happen and even they didn’t fully comprehend the mystery of this moment. And with this child’s birth, everything changes. Suddenly a world we thought was real is now found out to be false. And another world we once hoped and imagined might exist is now proved to be true. Truer than true. More real than real. Brighter than bright. More powerful and enduring than any power in this present age.
And as Peterson states, you and I, as pastors and shepherds of God’s people, get to be representatives of this invisible, in-breaking world of God’s. The ‘real’ breaking-in on the ‘unreal.’ The ‘true’ overwhelming the ‘false.’ But careful. Don’t get too carried away as we live out this mystery of God.
Don’t blow our cover. This in-breaking of God’s Kingdom is a quiet, subversive matter. We don’t come with guns and knives, slashing our way through this world.
We come with Agape.
Agape is the currency of this strange, new world of God. Agape so unconditional and enduring that it literally rips the defenses of the enemy to shreds. Manifest love so powerful that this world we now live in is powerless to stop it. Too bad that high-power executive Peterson refers to doesn’t have a clue!
My prayer: How exciting, Jesus, to know that true pastoral ministry is more ‘life and death’ than most other jobs out there in the ‘real’ world. The stakes are high. People’s lives are on the line. Eternal issues are at hand. It’s Good vs. Evil. Yet we know, without any doubt, who the true winner is. And thank You, Father, we get to be on His side, forever! For Your name’s sake. Amen.
My questions to ponder: Has the excitement of following Jesus and His ever-advancing Kingdom become ‘old hat,’ filled with boring paperwork and meaningless chatter? What needs to change in my thinking so that I don’t fall prey to the common belief that pastoral ministry is just helping people to mind their P’s & Q’s while the ‘secular’ world out there is where the ‘real’ action is?
So what is God speaking to you today as we ponder together The Contemplative Pastor?
Over a 37-blog series, you and I will take a deeper look at Eugene Peterson’s classic, The Contemplative Pastor: Returning to the Art of Spiritual Direction. In order to keep all the blog sessions organized, we suggest you bookmark our blog series home page for ease of use. Keep in mind that one of the best ways to explore the on-going applications of this blog series is to walk alongside a biblically-based, Christ-centered spiritual director who is familiar with how to make material like this part of your overall spiritual formation in God. Many of our directors in our Contemplative Activist network are available to companion you in your journey with Jesus. Click here for more info.
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