Eugene Peterson called his pastoral transformation congruence. Living a life where there was little slippage between what one is saying and what one is doing. He picked a poem of Gerald Manley Hopkins to explain it:
Preaching is the weekly verbal witness to the essential congruence of what Christ is with His work that "plays" in us. Everything that we do during the week, the prayers, conversations, interactions with children, students, colleagues, everyone are a part of the good news. The "Word ... made flesh" (John 1:14, KJV) is the word becoming our flesh, our limbs, our eyes, our hands.
The sermons in the book represent his three decades of collaboration and conversation with his congregants. It is his on-going narrative with his people and his contemplation on many biblical heroes.
You do not get to hear his voice as this is not a listening opportunity, but a reading opportunity. These are his "kingfisher" sermons. It is Peterson at his best and in the company of his conversations with Moses, David, Isaiah, Solomon, Peter, Paul, and John.
There is so much richness here that you should not miss. The section on Isaiah is stunning and worth the price of the book. And if that doesn't catch your attention, this amazing picture of a kingfisher really should.
Another book that rocked my little world this winter was Advent: The Once & Future Coming of Jesus Christ by Fleming Rutledge. I will be revisiting this writer every winter for as long I breathe.
She makes many a comment on John the Baptist who we all know prepared the way for Christ. "Advent is the season of the uncovering: 'Bear fruit that befits repentance ... Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees'!"
Advent is the right time root out the cover-ups in our lives as we wait with bated breath for the lights to come on and the announcement of the angel that God is not against us but for us.
This book is a collection of her sermons and thoughts, and it is written in three sections, writings, sermons, and a service of lessons and carols for advent. The section on sermons is organized into nine parts: waiting and hastening the king yet to come (Pre-Advent), the universal grip of the enemy (Pre-advent), justice and the final judgement (Pre-advent), God's apocalyptic war (the feast of Saint Michael), the coming of the Lord (Last Sunday of the church year: Feast of Christ the king), Advent begins in the dark (Advent I), the armor of light (Advent II), bearing witness on the brink (Advent III), the king of last things (Advent IV). The other two sections are much shorter but just as rich. She has the rare ability of allowing Bible text to speak to present day political realities.
This is not a book you read to give yourself a warm, cozy, Christmas-y feeling. There is so much here about waiting, turning, repenting ... in getting ready to meet Jesus as King and redeemer. It's just beautiful and I am not even close to forging the depths of it.
Another one I want to mention quickly is The Mystery of Holy Night by Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Bonhoeffer, a Christian theologian, was killed by the Nazis in Flossenburg on April 9, 1945 for his role in a conspiracy to murder Hitler. He was 39 years old.
The nativity of Christ in the manger speaks directly to this unity: it addresses a Christian's attitude toward the lowly, Christian experience--being humble in facing God and the world.
"Who among us will celebrate Christmas right?" Bonhoeffer asks. He answers, "those who finally lay down all their power, honor, and prestige, all their vanity, pride, and self-will at the manger." Brief, poetic selections from two Bonhoeffer sermons provides material for meditation on the meaning of Christmas and of Christianity. As well, the art work has been carefully selected and enhances what has been written. But what makes this special is that it is an Advent-hymn, a collection of his writings put together in such a way as to call out of the soul the same hope he was experiencing in his prison-cell. The Mystery of Holy Night weaves the Christmas story, theology, history, and art into an amazing Advent-hymn.
And what am I looking forward to reading in 2019? Here we go...
What books will you be reading in 2019? What great books did you read in 2018? I'd love to hear from you...