November 22, 2017

Practice Resurrection, continued — Why I Love Eugene Peterson

Noted by Chaplain Mike.

I’ve been distracted lately from my reading of Eugene Peterson’s new book, Practice Resurrection, a conversation about spiritual maturity from Ephesians.

Tonight, I came back to it, and found this story. Sublime illustration.

Two friends, Fred and Cheryl, went to Haiti twenty-five years ago to pick up a child they had adopted. Addie was five years old. Her parents had been killed in a traffic accident that left her without a family. As she walked across the tarmac to board the plane, the tiny orphan reached up and slipped her hands into the hands of her new parents whom she had just met. Later they told us of this “birth” moment, how the innocent, fearless trust expressed in that physical act of grasping their hands seemed almost as miraculous as the times their two sons slipped out of the birth canal 15 and 13 years earlier.

That evening, back home in Arizona, they sat down to their first supper together with their new daughter. There was a platter of pork chops and a bowl of mashed potatoes on the table. After the first serving, the two teenage boys kept refilling their plates. Soon the pork chops had disappeared and the potatoes were gone. Addie had never seen so much food on one table in her whole life. Her eyes were big as she watched her new brothers, Thatcher and Graham, satisfy their ravenous teenage appetites.

Fred and Cheryl noticed that Addie had become very quiet and realized that something was wrong –agitation…bewilderment…insecurity? Cheryl guessed that it was the disappearing food. She suspected that because Addie had grown up hungry, when food was gone from the table she might be thinking would be a day or more before there was more to eat. Cheryl had guessed right. She took Addie’s hand and led her to the bread drawer and pulled it out, showing her a back-up of three loaves. She took her to the refrigerator, opened the door, and showed her the bottles of milk and orange juice, the fresh vegetables, jars of jelly and jam and peanut butter, a carton of eggs, and a package of bacon. She took her to the pantry with its bins of potatoes, onions, and squash, and the shelves of canned goods — tomatoes and peaches and pickles. She opened the freezer and showed Addie three or four chickens, a few packages of fish, and two cartons of ice cream. All the time she was reassuring Addie that there was lots of food in the house, that no matter how much Thatcher and Graham ate and how fast they ate it, there was a lot more where that came from, she would never go hungry again.

Cheryl didn’t just tell her that she would never go hungry again. She showed her what was in those drawers and behind those doors, named the meats and vegetables, placed them in her hands. It was enough. Food was there, whether she could see it or not. Her brothers were no longer rivals at the table. She was home. She would never go hungry again.

My wife and I were told that story twenty-five years ago. Ever since, whenever I read and pray this prayer of Paul’s [Eph 3:14-21], I think of Cheryl gently leading Addie by the hand through a food tour of the kitchen and pantry, reassuring her of the “boundless riches” (Eph 3:8) and “all the fullness” (3:19) inherent in the household in which she now lives.

Practicing the Resurrection, pp. 159-160

And that’s how a pastor teaches and illustrates the Scriptures.

Comments

  1. Chaplain Mike – Indeed it is. Thank you for sharing that excerpt..

  2. Graham (the other one) says:

    Absolutely marvelous!

  3. I like that. It is a reminder to keep feeding and keep showing there is more food to come.

    I’ve told my congregation that I like to preach “splinter sermons.” These are sermons that give you splinters. And like a regular splinter that aches and festers unless you work it out, I want to say one or two things Sunday morning that will ache and fester in a person’s spirit until they work it out, apply it, use it and allow it to change them. Something that will bother them until they deal with it. Cheryl found something that bothered her and she dealt with it. Other teachers have left me with splinters, and now it is my turn to do the same.

    • Off topic, but I’m dying to hear one of your splinter sermons; maybe it’s the masochist in me. are they online ??

      thanks, that’s a great and lofty goal.
      Greg R

  4. Wow – powerful. That short story will make me buy that book. The last EP book I bought was Living the Resurrection and this book sounds like a great follow up. Thanks for posting.

  5. Incredible writing style. I look forward to reading it.

  6. Abouna Justin says:

    It is a beautiful story, but a troubling one. I have had similar experiences: once with a gifted Romanian music student staying at my seminary who arranged all of the leftovers in a semi circle around himself and proceeded to eat it all, washing it down with an entire gallon of Orange juice! It took several days for him to see that there would be more food.

    Here’s the troubling part. We need to stand in solidarity with those still in Haiti or Romania or Ethiopia…or, frankly most of the world. Christian fasting is a way to live for a while as most folks live without choosing. Fasting should lead us to action-almsgiving, advocacy, simplifying our own lives. As someone whose pantry is stocked to the brim, I fast to realize how blessed I am and how much I have to give. It’s getting windy on this soapbox, so I’ll get down now.

  7. Quality post worthy of the iMonk label, good job Chaplain Mike.

  8. Christiane says:

    How kind to take the child’s hand and lead her to witness that the reality was plenty of food in the home.
    Think of the kindness of Christ towards Thomas who doubted, when He took Thomas’ hand and guided it to the reality of His Wounds.

    Kindness. Very Christian characteristic.

  9. I must say that I am saddened by the promotion of Eugene Petersen and his ideas.

    • Michael has done so from the beginning of Internet Monk and so have I since adding my voice. And so it will continue. Peterson is a voice of sanity in the midst of the circus that is the American church scene. And one heck of a writer.

      You don’t agree with everything he says? Fine. I differ with everyone I know on something; I even change my own mind and can’t believe I once held to certain positions. Such is life, and such is the church, Tom. If you have specific disagreements, bring them up when it is appropriate and discuss them humbly. That is no problem. But a comment like yours on a post like this contributes nothing positive.

    • Tom and Matthew, please let me be clear. I respect your opinions and your right to express them. There is probably an appropriate place to talk about Peterson’s theology and discuss its merits or lack thereof. This post is not that place. Find someone who is evaluating his positions, and comment there.

      When I am reviewing a book or particular topic or piece of writing, I only ask that you stick with responding to the subject at hand and legitimate corollary topics. Peterson’s view of The Shack has absolutely nothing to do with anything I’ve written here. It does not come up when considering this current book, and it certainly has nothing to do with the illustration I am commending to you in this specific post.

      • BIG thanks for your watchcare, here, Chap Mike; we all benefit when we stay on task.

        I guess part of growing up is learning how or when to disagree, or to even ask “Is it worth it, eternally ?” before even getting started. Your post choices are very “MONKISH” , IMO, I appreciate you taking over a tough job, tho I’m sure it’s a labor of love.

        IN HIM
        Greg R

    • Apologies. My feelings are obvious, and I did not exhibit any self-control in the expressing of them. Peace.

      • Tom, no need to apologize. Like I said, I respect your opinion. Some others were trying to take us farther astray, which made it necessary for me to comment. I just have to step in once in awhile to make sure the conversation stays on track. I hope you’ll continue to read and join our discussions.

  10. I, too, love Peterson, though I’ve still yet to read a lot of his works. But I did enjoy his Christ Plays In Ten Thousand Places. And, of course, I find it refreshing to dip into The Message at times.

  11. I am discovering Peterson for the first time, outside of The Message, courtesy of a couple of fine folks at another blog. Which of his books, and/or audio lectures, have impacted you the most, Mike?

    • First and foremost, his books on pastoral ministry: Working the Angles, Under the Predictable Plant, Five Smooth Stones, The Contemplative Pastor. On a personal level, you can’t beat A Long Obedience in the Same Direction. The current 5-volume series of “spiritual conversations” is also outstanding, but I am still working through it. What I find with Peterson is that I don’t always “get it” the first time through, except for a few outstanding quotes and ideas. His books (for me) require savoring, coming back to them again and again. He elicits contemplation, not just reading or study. Enjoy!

  12. Love this post, Mike. Thanks. It brings to mind how crucial it is that we come daily to Christ’s table and eat and drink what He has chosen to provide from His fully-stocked pantry of grace. Too often I find myself chosing to eat cold beans from the dented can of self-reliance.