Anyone who knows me knows that I love the Bible. It is my favourite book, one I have read dozens of times and in many different translations. One of the most fun and interesting Bibles I ever read through was The Message Bible by Eugene Peterson. And although technically, this is a paraphrase and not an actual translation, it helped me to look at the Bible in new ways, especially the Old Testament prophets. Here’s an example of one of my favourite New Testament passages – Matthew 11:28-30 – first in the New King James Version of the Bible, and secondly from The Message Bible:
“Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” (NKJV).
“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me – watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” (The Message).
This past week, my wife Liza and I were blessed by a week long pastoral couple’s sabbatical-type retreat at Kerith Pines, a ministry of Focus on the Family. While we were there, I had a chance to read through another great book by Eugene Peterson, The Contemplative Pastor: Returning to the Art of Spiritual Direction. Pastor Eugene is a fantastic, skilled author, and I was blessed and challenged by this deep book. And therefore, I wanted to share with you some of the most impacting quotes from this book, and want to encourage you to pick it up and check it out…
The Contemplative Pastor – Eugene Peterson:
“A healthy noun doesn’t need adjectives. Adjectives clutter a noun that is robust. But if the noun is culture-damaged or culture-diseased, adjectives are necessary. “Pastor” used to be that kind of noun – energetic and virile. I have always loved the sound of that word. From an early age, the word called to mind a person who was passionate for God and compassionate with people… In general usage (today), the noun is weak, defined by parody and diluted by opportunism. The need for strengthening adjectives is critical…”
“The Unbusy Pastor: The adjective busy set as a modifier to pastor should sound to our ears like adulterous to characterize a wife or embezzling to describe a banker. It is an outrageous scandal… I (and most pastors, I believe) become busy for two reasons; both are ignoble. I am busy because I am vain. I want to appear important… (or) I am busy because I am lazy. I indolently let others decide what I will do instead of resolutely deciding myself.”
“How can I lead people into the quiet place beside the still waters if I am in perpetual motion?”
“What does it mean to be a pastor? … Three things. I can be a pastor who prays. I want to cultivate my relationship with God. I want all of life to be intimate… with the God who made, directs and loves me. I can be a pastor who preaches. I want to speak the Word of God that is Scripture in the language and rhythms of the people I live with. I am given an honored and protected time each week to do that. The pulpit is a great gift, and I want to use it well. I can be a pastor who listens. A lot of people approach me through the week to tell me what’s going on in their lives. I want to have the energy and time to really listen to them so that when they’re through, they know at least one other person has some inkling of what they’re feeling and thinking.”
“If there is no time to nurture these essentials, I become a busy pastor, harassed and anxious, a whining, compulsive Martha instead of a contemplative Mary.”
“Our most important work… is directing worship in the traffic, discovering the presence of eth cross in the paradoxes and chaos between Sundays, calling attention to the “splendor in the ordinary,” and most of all, teaching a life of prayer to our friends and companions in the pilgrimage.”
- You can purchase a copy of The Contemplative Pastor HERE.