... October 27

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Readings and Prayer for October 27

You may have heard the news that Eugene Peterson has died. He was a pastor and spiritual writer, and best known as translator of The Message version of the Bible. It is a great loss. Chances are, if a minister today has developed some healthy prayer habits they have picked them up through Peterson’s influence. While his death is a great loss for those of us who benefited from reading him, it is a great gift to this man who has earned his reward.

If you’ve listened to sermons at Wheatland you have heard him quoted and now you are likely to hear him more. I trust you will not tire hearing from a man such as this whose entire life was formed by rhythms of prayer, presence, and the grace of God.

Here is Eugene in his own words about ministry, faith, and life in the church.

“People are not problems to be solved. They are mysteries to be explored.”

“That's the whole spiritual life. It's learning how to die. And as you learn how to die, you start losing all your illusions, and you start being capable now of true intimacy and love.”

“There's nobody who doesn't have problems with the church, because there's sin in the church. But there's no other place to be a Christian except the church.”

This last quote, “… there's no other place to be a Christian except the church” reminds me that Eugene Peterson has taught me, over and over again, of the absolute necessity of the church. Some of us have grown up in a Christianity that unintentionally diminishes the role of the church in favor of an unhealthy individualism that promotes spiritual experiences at the expense of committed community in a congregation. But, there are no Christians without a church, without the Church. Peterson would have agreed with Cyprian of Carthage (and no doubt he quoted him) that “He can no longer have God for his Father, who has not the Church for his mother.”

One other thing I remember him saying was, “People go to church to learn how to pray.” Of course, most of us don’t realize that. However, our best and most basic instinct is to speak to God and even that is a gift. And it is a gift given to us in and through Christ’s body. What good is church if we can’t give people the grammar and the vocabulary of prayer? My hope for our little church is that we do at least that. If we can do that then I think we’ve accomplished much.

Speaking of prayer, here is the collect for this week.

Almighty and everlasting God, increase in us the gifts of faith, hope, and charity; and, that we may obtain what you promise, make us love what you command; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Paul Hill