I am re-reading Eugene Peterson’s As Kingfishers Catch Fire. He helps me to reimagine the work of preaching. He reminds me that we have done a fine job of taking apart a text historically, grammatically, and textually. We’ve also done a poor job learning from the text.
Peterson grew up in a small Pentecostal church, not unlike my own upbringing. He was preached at by evangelists about the dangers of “secular” thinking. As he grew up in his high school years he notes this:
“As the years passed, I found I rather liked having an enemy. It sharpened my sense of identity. The visiting evangelists gave me plenty to oppose — liberals, Catholics, Calvinists, evolutionists, environmentalists, Democrats, communists — exposing some of them as a front for the Antichrist.”
We like having enemies. We run best on fear. That is our current climate, and we’ve come by it in this fashion. Fear creates “us vs. them” and gives us some reason for engaging the culture, the Bible, etc.
Peterson found a better way. He engaged the text by listening. He took his time and quit looking for arguments.
My challenge always is to SEE the story. I can choke on the details. But when I pull back and see the story… and listen… I am refreshed in the presence of the Creator.
I still work to know the text. I still work to know the history. But the harder work… and the more rewarding work… is to sit back and LISTEN.