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Eugene Peterson

Several years ago, I spent a week studying Writing & The Pastoral Life with wise, raspy-voiced Eugene Peterson. This is the man who reminded us that the Bible was often penned by poets, the man who taught us that beautiful prose can undo the human heart. That story can crack the crustiest soul. That a fresh turn of phrase can turn a human Godward.

We miss you, Eugene.

But I imagine all of heaven delighted in the scene…

Of the poet-prophet-preacher who spent a lifetime playing with words being embraced by the Word Made Flesh.

The artist met his Creator behind the scenes.

After imbibing the jaw-dropping celestial scenes and finding his heavenly footing, I imagine Eugene peppering the scribes and saints about various passages. I also imagine the expanse of communication among angels and saints in the higher realm reminded Eugene what he already knew—even his most brilliant penned words never fully captured the depth, the beauty, the wonder of God.

In celebration of this poet saint, I went back through my notes with Eugene and collected some of my favorite quotes.

I hope you enjoy!

“Once the benediction is done, go out there and live to the glory of God.”

“Doesn’t run on adrenaline or competitiveness or rejection or neglect.”

“We keep a Sabbath. We pray and play. We don’t do anything unnecessary.”

“The feasts teach us principles for living.”

“(One of my mentors) was once asked what’s the most important thing to do as a pastor? He answered, ‘Take long vacations and relieve yourself as often as possible.’ That made a lot of sense to me.”

“I used to take 3X5 cards and write the names of three people I would preach to on Sunday morning. In 30 years of preaching, none of those three people I targeted ever said one thing to me about my sermon.”

“Early on, I only heard pastors describe their congregations in irritable or condescending ways. Or they treated them like rebellious or lazy kids. I heard very little appreciation for the dignity of the congregation. I knew that I could not be a pastor and cultivate that kind of attitude.”

“Children are the best poets up until they get it bred out of them by about sixth grade. One five-year-old poet said, “God who is high and God who is low, help us Lord, who are below.”

“The reason that poets are so important is that they’re shepherds of the language.”

“The work of the poet is to change the way we see the world, to change our imaginations.”

“There are three forms of speech natural to a pastor—preaching, teaching, and paracletic—I coined that last one and it means, what you’re saying is important but it’s important that you don’t know it’s important. We have to learn to do all these things—they flow into each other, but if we’re not careful, we’ll major in preaching and teaching.”

“The way of writing that is most congenial to the pastor is poetry. We’re inundated with a church world that is very programmatic, full of methods and how to do it. I’ve always felt uncomfortable with that. There’s almost a denial of the work of the Holy Spirit.”

“A lot of people can write, but writers are people who keep writing when no one publishes their writing or get paid.”

What do you appreciate most about Eugene Peterson and the rich legacy of work he left behind?

Recommended Resources:

The Message Devotional Bible: featuring notes & reflections from Eugene H. Peterson

Every Step an Arrival: A 90-Day Devotional for Exploring God’s Word

As Kingfishers Catch Fire: A Conversation on the Ways of God Formed by the Words of God

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