Eugene Peterson has been a favorite author for a few years now. Widely known for The Message translation of the Bible, my first exposure to the author and pastor came in grad school when we were assigned Working the Angles: The Shape of Pastoral Integrity. A few pages in and it became apparent that Peterson is one of those few authors who deserves a slow reading, less because of his writing’s complexities than for the wisdom that oozes from each sentence.
More recently I have anticipated the publication of each of Peterson’s five-part spiritual theology series: Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places: A Conversation in Spiritual Theology (2005), Eat This Book: A Conversation in the Art of Spiritual Reading (2006), The Jesus Way: A Conversation on the Ways That Jesus Is the Way (2007), Tell It Slant: A Conversation on the Language of Jesus in His Stories and Prayers (2008), and (according to Wikipedia) the forthcoming Practicing the Resurrection.
Last year I reflected on The Jesus Way in three parts (one, two, three), something I don’t intend to do with Tell it Slant. Having almost finished the book, I can highly recommend it to you, along with the three previous titles in the series. Peterson divides the book into two sections: “Jesus in his stories” and “Jesus in his prayers.” Delving into Jesus’ parables (drawn from Luke 9:51-19:44) and prayers, Peterson revels in the powerfully subversive language and shows the life-giving thrust of Jesus’ words.
It’s tough to quote a Peterson book- one delightful or potent paragraph runs into another- but here is a section where the author is looking at the Kingdom of God from within the context of the Lord’s Prayer.
Those of us who grow up under democratic governments commonly count ourselves most fortunate in living under an elected, not imposed, government that best serves the human condition. That might very well be, But it also carries with in the habit of thinking that the best government, including God’s government, is run along the lines of a democracy. This is a hard habit to break. God is not president or prime ministry of a democracy. God is king. “The LORD reigns… Thy throne is established from old” (Psalm 93:1-2). God is sovereign. that is the assured and frequently expressed witness of Scripture from Genesis to Revelation. But there are not earthly analogies to God’s throne and rule. It is not imposed; it is not despotic. All our needs and hungers, our tears and longings, our petitions and praises are assimilated in God’s rule. It is a sovereignty that invites our participation. We share his rule, but it is his rule.
And one more, a few paragraphs on:
If we even so slightly begin thinking of the kingdo apart from the well-documented Jesus context, we will easily come to think that the kingdom we are praying for is in competition with the kingdoms that are written up in our history books and reported in our current events. Then it isn’t long before we are thinking of ways to outmaneuver the kingdom ways that we see operating in business and industry, in government and war, and compete with them on their terms. But the kingdom we are participating in when we pray, “Your kingdom come,” is not in competition with the kingdoms of America or IBM or Honda or Microsoft. It is subverting them.
If you’ve not yet read Peterson, Tell it Slant may be a great place to start.