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An Unnecessary Pastor Rather Than The Manager Of A Religious Company (via Eugene Peterson)

Eugene Peterson has died at the age of 85.
The internet will provide you with plenty of eulogies, should you search them out.
A contemplative presence whose wisdom invited thought and consideration, even when the reader did not agree with his conclusions.

In his collaboration with Marva Dawn, published as the book The Unnecessary Pastor, Peterson identifies the third of three ways in which pastors should be unnecessary – countering the culturally shaped expectations that seek to define a pastor’s role, definitions that are at odds with a biblical expression of the role.
Peterson has already addressed the forces exerted by culture and even the pastor themselves to skew the nature of pastoral practice, and he then turns to the influence congregational expectations can make their contribution.
I don’t the situation Peterson addresses has abated in the twenty years or so since he wrote these words:

3. And we are unnecessary to what congregations insist that we must do and be: as the experts who help them stay ahead of the competition. Congregations want pastors who will lead them in the world of religious competition and provide a safe alternative to the world’s ways. They want pastors who lead. They want pastors the way the Israelites wanted a king — to make hash of the Philistines. Congregations get their ideas of what makes a pastor from the culture, not from the Scriptures: they want a winner; they want their needs met; they want to be part of something zesty and glamorous.
I am in conversation right now with a dozen or so men and women who are prepared to be pastors and who are waiting to be called by a congregation. And I am having the depressing experience of reading congregational descriptions of what these churches want in a pastor. With hardly an exception they don’t want pastors at all — they want managers of their religious company. They want a pastor they can follow so they won’t have to bother with following Jesus anymore.

The Unnecessary Pastor, Marva Dawn and Eugene Peterson, Eerdmans, pg 4


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Resilient Relationships And Daily Repentance (via Fleming Rutledge)

Fleming Rutledge writes about the final prophetic promise of the Christian Old Testament, and how that foreshadows the Gospel hope and the creation wide need for it.

The final words of the Christian Old Testament are quite amazing. The Hebrew Scriptures are arranged so that the prophetic literature is in the middle, but the Christian Old Testament has the prophets at the end. The last book is Malachi, and the next-to—last verses foresee a “great and terrible day,” the day of judgment and the second coming of the Lord. It will be a time when all that has been wrong will be set right. The example that Malachi gives is astonishing. At the last possible moment, he turns away from the language of wrath and flames to something very unexpected. This is the way the Old Testament ends: “Behold, I will send you the prophet Elijah [that would be John the Baptist] … He will turn the hearts of parents to their children and the hearts of children to their parents, so that I will not come and strike the land with a curse.”
The worst thing in the world, the prophet seems to be saying, is estrangement within families. It is given as the sign of the final judgment of God, his worst curse upon the human race. If you are a young person here today feeling miserable about your parents, if you are parents here today worried about your children, then this message is for you. God does not desire this situation. His will is for reconciliation. Family breakdown is a sign of the old age of Sin and Death. Reconciliation between parents and children is the sign that the kingdom of heaven is at hand.
Maybe you don’t have these kinds of problems yet in your family, but every family, over generations, will have some kind of wrenching, heartbreaking trouble. In every case, the fracturing of the most basic human connection is the antithesis of what God intends for his people. And reconciliation, when it happens, is one of the clearest of all indications that God is at work. Therefore the most important way that we can participate in the life of God is to seek reconciliation. Reconciliation is hard work. It requires daily repentance. For a number of years, I have had two distinguished psychoanalysts as teachers. I asked both of them a fundamental question: What is the most important ingredient in a strong marriage? They gave the same answer. One of them is a secular Jew so I was very surprised to hear him say, “The most important ingredient is asking forgiveness.”
Fleming Rutledge, Advent – The Once & Future Coming Of Jesus Christ, Eerdmans, 2018, pp 291-292.


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Loving The Subject Of Preaching More Than Loving The Action Of Preaching (via Lewis Allen)

Lewis Allen’s The Preacher’s Catechism is comprised of forty-three reflections based on catechism-style questions and answers aimed at preachers.
The chapters provide some doctrinal reflection and some personal reflection applications.
The first question: ‘What is God’s chief end in preaching?’
The answer to that question: ‘God’s chief end in preaching is to glorify his name.’
From Allen’s application of the theme.

What is your heartbeat? Do you love to preach, or do you love the One you preach? Do you love to prep your sermons, enjoying the hard mental and spiritual work, or do you love the One you are discovering more about? As Sunday comes, do you long to lift up the name of the triune God in your preaching, declaring the wonder of the three persons, or is your heart set on getting a bit more congregational love in your direction?
Our challenge as preachers is to remain lovers, to refuse to let our calling, however important and exciting, obscure our primary calling to be captivated ourselves by God’s love in Jesus Christ. We must teach others that God is love, and that life on earth is an invitation from heaven to know that love and to live in the light of it. Sermons that are mere information downloads are dry discourses and make for dry Christians, if Christians at all. Rather, we preach so that our hearers discover that the God of love has come to meet them in his Son.

The Preacher’s Catechism, Lewis Allen, Crossway, 2018, pg 30.


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Christian Resistance Is A Corporate Expression (via Fleming Rutledge)

Writing on 1 Peter, Fleming Rutledge identifies the theme of the letter as “the church among the nations as the people of the crucified, risen, and reigning Christ.”

The first epistle of Peter is a letter from a God’s—eye view, and the view it gives is of the church. We can never say it often enough: the Bible is addressed, for the most part, not to individuals, but to the people of God.7 We need to say still more. As Peter puts it in various ways over and over throughout the letter, the people of God have been constituted, not by their own preferences or choices, but by Gods’ prior choice, first of Israel, and then, through Jesus Christ, of the church. The church resists, endures, and conquers not through its own efforts, let alone its merits, but because of the call, the commission, and the continuing presence of God. “The God of all grace, Who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, establish, and strengthen you.” The church lives out of (not “into” but “out of”) its foundation upon the “living stone” (I Pet. 2:6), which is Christ, out of its baptism into his death and resurrection, out of its promised future guaranteed by his Holy Spirit. It is this certainty that gives courage for resistance.
Fleming Rutledge, Advent – The Once & Future Coming Of Jesus Christ, Eerdmans, 2018, pg 131.

The footnote indicated in the passage above expands the idea:

7. Therefore resistance is not largely a matter of individuals but of the corporate body. “Peter does not issue a general call to become a Christian and then, as a subsequent and perhaps optional move, for individual Christians to join togetherinto a voluntary association that might serve our projects of being individual Christians.” God precedes the people; the people precedes the person; the person is constituted by being incorporated into the people (Harink, 1&2 Peter, 73).


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Living At Midnight (via Fleming Rutledge)

Fleming Rutledge reflects on Christian life as a time of waiting, doubt, and preparation.

In the last week of his life, Jesus went to the temple every day to teach. He was engaged in a fight to the death, literally, with the religious leaders. This whole section of the Gospel of Matthew is always read toward the end of the church year; it projects an atmosphere of impending crisis. The parable of the ten Virgins, or bridesmaids, is one of the very last that Jesus told. We are meant to see ourselves in this story. Ten young women with lamps and oil are waiting for a wedding procession. It is midnight, and the bridegroom has not come. The lamps are burning low. Maybe he is never coming. Maybe the whole thing was a mistake.
Midnight is the time of the church year that we are in. This is the time for asking if there is some mistake, for, as W. H. Auden wrote, “Unless you exclaim — ‘There must be some mistake’ — you must be mistaken.”

Fleming Rutledge, Advent – The Once & Future Coming Of Jesus Christ, Eerdmans, 2018, pg 91.


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The Theological Profundity Of Considering The First Coming Of Jesus After Considering The Second Coming (via Fleming Rutledge)

Fleming Rutledge on the value of considering the incarnation of Jesus after considering the second coming:

Does Advent run backwards? The movement is from the second coming to the first coming; it doesn’t seem to make sense. The season begins with the last things and ends with the nativity in Bethlehem. Shouldn’t it be the other way round?
Not really. The rhythm of the church’s seasons turns out, in this as in so many other ways, to be theologically profound. If we began with the nativity and then moved to the last judgment, we would be so softened up by that little baby in the manger that we wouldn’t be able to take the second coming of Christ in power seriously. The solemnity and awe do not lie in the fact that the baby becomes the eternal judge. What strikes us to the heart is this: the eternal Judge, very God of very God, Creator of the worlds, the Alpha and the Omega, has become that little baby.

Fleming Rutledge, Advent – The Once & Future Coming Of Jesus Christ, Eerdmans, 2018, pg 60.


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The Benefits Of Home Libraries

Preparing Bible Studies and sermons on the book of Ecclesiastes, verse 12 in chapter 12 that kept echoing: “Of making many books there is no end, and much study is a weariness of the flesh.”
Now, I own a few books.
I’ve already posted a quote from a new one that arrived today.
So this report about the benefits of growing up in a home with books salves my conscience.
(Not that it needed much salving, admittedly.)

From a report at PacificStandard:

The results suggest those volumes made a long-term difference. “Growing up with home libraries boosts adult skills in these areas beyond the benefits accrued from parental education, or [one’s] own educational or occupational attainment,” the researchers report.
Not surprisingly, the biggest impact was on reading ability. “The total effects of home library size on literacy are large everywhere,” the researchers report.Growing up with few books in the house was associated with below-average literacy rates, while he presence of around 80 books raised those rates to the mean. Literacy continued to increase with the number of reported books up to around 350, at which point it flattened out.
Similarly, the effects of a home library on numeracy were quite significant across the board. Its impact on technological skills was smaller but also widespread.

Read the whole post here.

If you’ll excuse me, I’ve got a book to get back to.