During this extended season of constant movement, Eugene Peterson and his sermons have been faithful companions. When I need a word, when I don’t want a word, he finds a way to touch with surprising accuracy. Drawing from the whole counsel of Scripture, these select 49 sermons from 29 years of faithful preaching to Christ Our King Presbyterian Church in Bel Air, Maryland, have found their way to Seoul, Taipei, and Budapest—breathing and speaking life to this oft-lost wanderer.
I first thought this collection would be a quick read—I never read any of Eugene Peterson’s works, but I assumed from his Message translation that anything else he wrote would be of the same caliber. Well, I wasn’t wrong: it is an easy read. Much like the Message, Peterson writes with such simplicity and lightness that any reader would delight with just 10-15 minutes in his words. I was wrong, however, in a different sense: it was not a quick read; it took me nearly 5 months to finish. I bought the kindle version, so I didn’t know it was nearly 400 pages in print. But more than the length it was the depth that slowed me. By the second sermon I realized that I’m reading someone entrenched in and enchanted by Holy Writ; a pastor whose prose is world-renown but was crafted for his local parish; a grand person in love with God and people; a companion who walks all the way down into valleys and hikes all the way up to peaks.
As Kingfishers Catch Fire excavates and treasures Scripture cover-to-cover. 49 sermons are divided into seven blocks of seven sermons. Each block is tied to a prominent biblical character associated with a cluster of Scriptural texts: Moses and the Pentateuch, David and the Psalter, Isaiah and the prophetic, Solomon and wisdom literature, Peter and the Synoptic Gospels, Paul and his epistles, and John and his gospel, letters, and apocalyptic poem (Revelation). At the head of each block Peterson writes an introduction—do not skip these; they are well worth their time. Though not as exhaustive or in-depth as some commentary, these sermons illuminate differently. Peterson is not exclusively concerned to inform his congregation or detail the complexity of biblical truth; Peterson wants his congregation to—as his favorite metaphor goes—“eat the book.” He wants his listeners to feast on Scripture, digest and convert it to energy, let it course through their veins, and output it as love.
Not every sermon is a banger. Some are boring, or maybe I was bored and unappreciative. But every sermon has a word if not for the present crisis then a future one.
I’m glad this is the first Eugene Peterson book I’ve read (I’ve only thumbed through the Message). I got to hear him as a pastor of Christ Our King Presbyterian Church, not Evangelicalism’s superstar.