Today’s Eugene Peterson Quote:
The adjective ‘apocalyptic’ is not commonly found in company with the noun ‘pastor’. I can’t remember ever hearing them in the same sentence. They grew up on different sides of the tracks. I’d like to play Cupid between the two words and see if I could instigate a courtship. ‘Apocalyptic’ has a wild sound to it: an end-of-the-world craziness, a catastrophic urgency. ‘Pastor’ is a comforting word; a person who confidently quotes the Twenty-third Psalm when you are shivering in the dark shadows. But I have a biblical reason for bringing the two words together. The last book of the Bible was written by a pastor. And the book he wrote was an apocalypse. The St. John who gave us the last words of the Bible was an apocalyptic pastor…the kind of pastor I would like to be. My admiration expands: he is also the kind of pastor I would like my colleagues to be. As I look to him, searching for the energy source that makes him a master and not one more religious hack, I find it is the apocalyptic element that is critical. With the vastness of the heavenly invasion and the urgency of the faith decision rolling into our consciousness like thunder and lightning, we cannot stand around on Sunday morning filling the time with pretentious small talk on how bad the world is and how wonderful this new stewardship campaign is going to be. Eugene Peterson (from Chapter Four, The Contemplative Pastor pp. 47-50)
Did you feel that jab?
Every now and then, we laborers in the Kingdom of God need a sharp elbow jabbing us in the gut, awakening us to the realities of our work. Peterson’s words here at the beginning of the fourth chapter of his excellent book, The Contemplative Pastor, remind me of the famed jab from the Christian writer, C.S. Lewis. When commenting on this sometimes sleepy approach you and I can take toward our faith in Christ, Lewis writes…
“Christianity, if false, is of no importance, and if true, of infinite importance. The only thing it cannot be is moderately important!”
So when Peterson speaks of Sunday mornings across America where churches of all denominations are full of pulpits focused on politics, pop culture, and the latest stewardship campaign, I’m guessing the Holy Spirit shudders in heaven, wondering when God’s people decided to go left when the Holy God of the Universe turned right!
As we’ll find in this chapter on becoming the apocalyptic pastor, Peterson is calling us to a radical lifestyle change that begins with our minds and our hearts. A refocusing of purpose and call. A renewed and empowered commitment to the advancing, in-breaking Kingdom of God. A re-filling and re-tooling from the Holy Spirit, releasing a heavenly wisdom and powerful perspective on life; one that is consistent with the radical outpouring of agape love we see infiltrating sleepy and self-centered lives in the first century.
As I see it, if you and I continue on our current trek of playing the role of the complacent, peace-loving chaplain to a self-centered and self-consumed church that long ago left its first love, we all have hell to pay when we face our Maker on that Last Day. Unfortunately, we’ve allowed the plain-vanilla mediocrity of faith that Lewis warned about to become the gold standard when ascribing ‘success’ to faith in America. Gone is the day when men and women of the cloth would readily choose to side with God when challenged by a society where anything and everything goes. Gone are the days when men and women of Christ-centered integrity stood up for those things that are right, while denying themselves the fleshly privileges of an over-abundant society.
Sacrifice and selflessness are the calling cards of a Kingdom people and the apocalyptic message God has given us awaits those who will answer the call.
Come on, Eugene, preach on!
I sense the Lord’s pleasure as you tackle this one on behalf of God’s shepherds!
My prayer: Father God, I need this jab in the ribs in order to awaken me to the real reason I’m called into pastoral ministry. I’m not here to tickle people’s fancy, fund-raise for impressive buildings, or soothe my comfort-seeking, self-centered soul. The Kingdom awaits those who will forsake the mediocrity of Americanized Christianity and boldly follow Jesus into the troubling times in which we live. Send me, Lord. For Your name’s sake. Amen.
My questions to ponder: What kinds of sacrificial actions are required of me in order to become actively involved with the apocalyptic work of the Kingdom of God? What twenty-first-century comforts stand in my way to becoming the apocalyptic pastor Peterson speaks of here?
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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