That’ll Preach – Eugene Peterson in Practice Resurrection

Practice Resurrection Peterson I've just begun Eugene Peterson's Practice Resurrection: A Conversation on Growing Up in Christ. I enjoy virtually everything Peterson writes, but am really enjoying this one at the outset.

Early in the book, Peterson describes his epiphany that, "Romantic, crusader, and consumer representations of the church get in the way of recognizing the church for what it actually is. If we permit – or worse, promote – dreamy or deceptive distortions of the Holy Spirit creation, we interfere with participation in the real thing. The church we want becomes the enemy of the church we have."

If that didn't preach for you, this will:

I realized that this was my place and work in the church, to be a witness to the truth that dazzles gradually. I would be a witness to the Holy Spirit's formation of congregation out of this mixed bag of humanity that is my congregation – broken, hobbled, crippled, sexually abused and spiritually abused, emotionally unstable, passive and passive-aggressive, neurotic men and women. Men at fifty who have failed a dozen times and know that they will never amount to anything. Women who have been ignored and scorned and abused in a marriage in which they have been faithful. People living with children and spouses deep in addictions. Lepers and blind and deaf and dumb sinners. Also fresh converts, excited to be in on this new life. Spirited young people, energetic and eager to be guided into a life of love and compassion, mission and evangelism. A few seasoned saints who know how to pray and listen and endure. And a considerable number of people who pretty much just show up. I wonder why they bother. There they are. The hot, the cold, and the lukewarm, Christians, half-Christians, almost Christians. New-agers, angry ex-Catholics, sweet new converts. I didn't choose them. I don't get to choose them. Any congregation is adequate for taking a long, loving look at these people. It doesn't seem at all obvious at first, but when we keep at it, persist in this long, loving look, we realize that we are, in fact, looking at the church, this Holy Spirit-created community that forms Christ in this place. But not in some rarefied "spiritual" sense, precious souls for whom Christ died. They are that, too, but it takes a while to see it, see the various parts of Christ's body right here and now: a toe here, a finger there, sagging buttocks and breasts, skinned knees and elbows. Paul's metaphor of the church as members of Christ's body is not a mere metaphor. Metaphors have teeth. They keep us grounded to what we see right before us. At the same time they keep us connected to all the operations of the Trinity that we can't see. This is what is involved in realizing and embracing the Holy Spirit-created realities of church. We take a long and loving look at what we see right before our eyes in our chosen or assigned or last-chance congregation. And then, persisting in what we see, internalizing in our prayers as church takes form in worship and baptism and eucharist, we give witness to what we gradually but very surely know the church is in the only terms in which the Holy Spirit forms it – on this earth, this ground, this local San Diego, Wichita, Chicago ground, with these local and named saints and sinners.

I'm enjoying the ride through Practice Resurrection, greatly thus far (about 20% through)…and would commend it to you already.

Dr. Tim Spivey is Lead Planter of New Vintage Church in San Diego, California. He is the author of numerous articles and one book, "Jesus: The Powerful Servant." A sought after speaker for events, Tim also serves as Adjunct Professor of Religion at Pepperdine University. Tim serves as a church consultant, and his writings are featured on ChurchLeaders.com, Church Executive magazine, Faith Village, Sermon Central, and Giving Rocket.

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