God’s got this

Last summer, Jana and I spent time with Eugene and Jan Peterson at their home in Flathead Lake, Montana. Eugene had graciously agreed to mentor me if I was fortunate enough to win a Lilly Grant for my sabbatical.

I’d come prepared with questions from the readings he’d assigned me, but mostly we talked about people and churches we all knew. Eugene had written much of The Message while living in Pittsburgh, and Jan had attended the same church we’d belonged to in Alabama. It was like catching up with old friends.

Eugene Peterson never set out to be a pastor. Indeed, in his memoir, The Pastor, he wrote in detail about how little he thought of pastors, mostly due to the type of pastors who’d come through his hometown when he was growing up. He later came to lament how pastors served more as corporate CEOs than shepherds of a flock. Eugene became a “pastor’s pastor” without ever intending to. His passing this week has many of us pastors reflecting on what he meant to us.

To me, his great gift was being able to see and point to Jesus in all things. Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places is the title of one of Eugene’s books on spiritual theology, taken from the line of a poem by Gerard Manley Hopkins. Everything, no matter how small or seemingly unimportant, is infused with the Holy Spirit. Since Jesus is at work in everything, everywhere, all the time, it means that we can quit running around like crazy, like pastors often do (and are usually expected to do). After all, if Jesus is in this, our role is pretty small by comparison.

My lesson from the sabbatical was “God’s got this.”

I can’t tell you how helpful this was later in the year as Jana’s dad entered his final illness. My father-in-law was a simple man of faith; he wouldn’t have understood books on spiritual theology. But like Eugene, he could see Christ in everything and, like Eugene, he delighted in everything.

It’s nice to know that “God’s got this.” He’s got Eugene, he’s got my father-in-law, he’s got me, he’s got Jana, he’s got our kids, he’s got you, and he’s got this church.

Bono, Eugene Peterson, and the Psalms

I call this blog “Intersection” and this week’s entry is a good example why. This week, several folks shared with me a video, “Bono and Eugene Peterson on The Psalms.”

Here’s the link: http://bit.ly/1UeTbrM

Eugene Peterson is a Presbyterian pastor and author who is best known for his translation of the Bible called The Message. There are 17 million copies of the message in print. A mentor once told me that Eugene Peterson is a “rock star” among Presbyterian pastors.

In 2002, Bono sent Eugene a video message telling him how much The Message meant to him and to his band, U2. The band would read psalms from The Message before a concert to inspire their performance. Not knowing that Bono really was a world famous rock star, Eugene ignored Bono’s message. But Bono was persistent, and over the years, the two struck up a relationship.

In this 21-minute video, Eugene’s wife, Jan, welcomed Bono into their Montana home by baking cookies. They discovered that they shared a passion for music and poetry, and a love for the way the psalms spoke to the reality of life. Peterson’s translation of the psalms was the inspiration for much of Bono’s music. As Peterson said, “Bono is singing to the very people I did this work for. I feel that we are allies in this. He is helping get me and The Message to the very people Jesus spent much of his time with.”

Bono’s advice to Christian artists is to “Get real,” and to write music that describe life the way it really is. “What God wants from us is the truth.”