A Letter to Eugene
A few years back I was asked, along with some other authors, to express my thanks to the inestimable Eugene Peterson. Today as I reflect on his life, I am once again reminded of the legacy Eugene has left behind.
August 3, 2016
How forward of me. However, “Mr. Peterson” seems too formal. “Professor?” No. Perhaps “Pastor” would be best for you have been that for so many.
Thank you for showing me that the deepest of thoughts can be expressed with the idiom of a congregation. I am a better pastor for it. Lofty poetry has its place—even in the language of worship. But our church still invites people to pray the raw prayers of David. This is a part of your legacy for you reminded us they have always been just that—raw and very real.
But I am also grateful for your words on community in A Long Obedience in the Same Direction. I just handed to Don Pape and the team at NavPress a completed manuscript. The book explores what it could mean for us to be one as Jesus and the Father are one. What might that be for the people of God to live out an otherworldly (though not yet perfect) unity in this fractured world?
But, of course, you have been calling us to this for quite a while. The image of costly oil dripping off Aaron’s beard in Psalm 133 . . . and then telling me to see the oil flow over the head, down the face, through the beard, onto the shoulders of the other . . . to realize this anointed brother or sister standing before me is also a priest . . . Humility. Grace. Fellowship. Serving and being served. Love.
For this we long. To this we’ve been called. May we see each other as you have described. May the prayer of Jesus in John 17 come alive in our relationships.
The word “inspired” is misused and overused, but you have inspired many of us from afar.
It’s why I refer to you in the book as “the inestimable Eugene Peterson.” I meant it. It would be hard to compute the value of your ministry adequately. To describe you as such was quite fun for me. But now it is even more so, closing the distance a bit and thanking you more directly.
How good and pleasant it is
when God’s people live together in unity!
It is like precious oil poured on the head,
running down on the beard,
running down on Aaron’s beard,
down on the collar of his robe.
It is as if the dew of Hermon
were falling on Mount Zion.
For there the Lord bestows his blessing,
even life forevermore.