Posted tagged ‘Eugene Peterson’

Somewhere Between Too Religious and Jesus-And”

February 6, 2021

I’ve been reading “The Message/Remix”, Eugene Peterson’s paraphrase of the Bible, for my devotional/quiet time reflection this year. This week the readings took me into Leviticus and Hebrews. Peterson gives a brief introduction to each scripture book. For Hebrews, he says that it was written for people who were either “too religious” or had a bad spiritual habit of putting a hyphen after Jesus…Jesus-and-angels, Jesus-and-Moses, Jesus-and-priesthood.

It’s so relevant for us today that it’s scary! There are followers of Jesus who are so concerned with the fabric of his robe and the color of his crown that they fail to see the Jesus they are called to follow.

And then there are those who feel like Jesus can’t be enough. The hyphen adds any number of things…Jesus-and-politics, Jesus-and-church programming, Jesus-and-money. The danger with hyphens after Jesus’ name is that whatever it is that follows the hyphen is prone to become the dominating force. In other words, it’s almost like Jesus stands up to introduce the guest speaker for the evening and then whatever the add-on happens to be rises to the podium, and Jesus steps to the side.

To clarify, it’s not that Jesus isn’t connected to other parts and interests in our lives; it’s the tendency to contort the Savior into some kind of shape that fits into our interests. He becomes a reference for our opinion, instead of the Revelation through whom we come to an opinion. He becomes the after-the-hyphen word, kind of a substitute driver if the main driving passion of our life gets exhausted.

Peterson makes the point that the book of Hebrews is getting the followers of Jesus to realize that God’s action was in Jesus, not Jesus-and! In our complex culture, many people shudder at the idea of simplicity. It’s too plain for them, like a bowl of rice with no seasonings or butter. Jesus is just not exciting enough for them. The “happening church” they attend adds some color to the plainness of their King with a moving light display and a pastor in skinny jeans. The cappuccino they can sip during the live praise band performance also adds flavor. They are addicted to spiritual seasonings, not quite the intent of Jesus’ words telling people to be the salt of the earth.

Imagine, however, hearing the words of grace and forgiveness for the first time, and finding out that the One who loves me and beckons me to follow is the Only One who does not need to be hyphenated. In fact, the only punctuation after His name might be simply a wondrous exclamation mark! Simply amazing!

Amen! Yes…But!

August 13, 2012

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                    August 12, 2012

 

I recently read Eugene Person’s memoirs entitled The Pastor. In the midst of it he tells a story about his daughter asking what “amen” meant. The family said it at the end of the dinner grace, so her curiosity could not contain her “amen compliance.” Her pastor father told her it was like saying “Yes” at the end of what had been said in the prayer. Naturally her next question was why they didn’t just say yes? That started a new tradition in the Peterson household, and somewhat in their church family. At the end of the prayer they began punctuating the end by saying “Amen! Yes!”

At a basketball officiating camp I attend each year the camp director begins each camp with introductions and procedures. At almost every camp he tells a room full of aspiring whistle-blowers to receive the instruction from the camp clinicians, and to take the criticisms and suggestions for what they are worth.

And then he says, “What we don’t want is ‘Yes, buts!’”

His point is that we are there to get better, not to question the evaluations and tips of the people who are there to help us. Every camp, however, there is at least one knucklehead who wants to argue.

Yes…but!”

Many of us live spiritual journeys that are littered with “Yes…buts!” They come in different forms. Sometimes they come after we have heard of a promise of God from his Word. We hear the promise, we hear the hope, the proclamation, and we say “Amen! Yes…but…”

The “but” is seldom uttered after the amen, but it thunders from our life. I see many a believer who says he believes in grace, yet lives under the law. That’s a “yes…but” story in the making!

There are also those who identify themselves as Christians, but treat parts of the Christian walk as either antiquated or no longer relevant. Perhaps they see themselves as progressive believers forging a new path. Call it what you will, the smell of the “yes…but” is close at hand. (Maybe I shouldn’t have used the term “the smell of the yes but.”)

I recognize I use the same words in my life. Guilty as charged! Many weeks I hear the Spirit speaking encouragement to me. I sense the whisper of hope as I take another step in my journey as a pastor, a shepherd. And I am prone to inject a few “Amen! Yes…buts” into my response.

We practiced this morning in the midst of the flock. We echoed “Amen! Yes!” at the end of each prayer, and scripture reading. We withstood the temptation to add the “but.” We practiced hope and proclamation in prep time for a week that will surely challenge most of us.

We’re journeying towards a place, a point where we will wholeheartedly shout “Amen! Yes…Yes…Yes!”