On this day 2018, Eugene Peterson, translator of The Message Bible, passed from this life to the next. In a public Service Eugene’s long life was celebrated at First Presbyterian Church of Kalispell.
There were many poignant moments…so many treasures worth reflecting on. One favourite was when Eugene’s son, Leif, talked about his father’s one message; this one core truth, which Peterson taught again and again to both his children and to his congregation:
God loves you. God is on your side. God is coming after you. God is relentless.
Eugene’s other son, Eric, offered an amazing homily entitled Containers, while Pastor Andy Wendle reminded us of one of Eugene’s favorite texts, John 1: 14…
The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood.We saw the glory with our own eyes, the one-of-a-kind glory, like Father, like Son. Generous inside and out true from start to finish.
Francis Chan left his thriving American megachurch, turned his back on the fame that ministry had brought him and moved his family to a developing country. But don’t call him a radical. This is an article from Premier Christianity magazine.
Am I part of the problem? That’s the question Francis Chan asked himself as he surveyed his thriving megachurch. Cornerstone Church in California had grown from 30 to 6,000 congregants in the 15 years since Chan planted it. Yet he wasn’t satisfied.
He was leading a typical Western, evangelical church, and that, according to Chan, was exactly the problem. Everything centred around “a speaking gift and a sermon”, he says. In other words, people were flocking to preacher-man Chan, rather than seeking an encounter with God. When this magazine last interviewed him, in 2010, he put it this way: “One of the problems at our church is when I hear the words ‘Francis Chan’ more than I hear the words ‘Holy Spirit’.”
In this rare interview from Premier Christianity magazine, straight-talking missionary Jackie Pullinger challenges the Church to stop living vicariously through her, and get on with the job:
Jackie Pullinger won’t read this. At least that’s what she told me, as we wound up our conversation and I offered to send her a copy of the magazine.
Perhaps I should have been offended at her bluntness, but despite her pouring cold water over the premise of many of my questions, and her body language making it clear throughout our chat that she does not like giving media interviews, my respect for this 74-year-old missionary refuses to dwindle.
Pullinger’s classic autobiography Chasing the Dragon (Hodder & Stoughton) remains a best-seller among evangelicals, despite being released more than 30 years ago. It tells the story of how a plucky young woman from Croydon boarded a ship with nothing but a £10 note and a prayer that God would show her where to get off. When the boat pulled into Hong Kong in 1966, God ordered her to disembark and Pullinger the missionary obeyed.
Metaphors in literature and poetry are used to uncover truth. They draw attention to realities that are otherwise hard to perceive by drawing on imagery from another source. They enlighten and reveal. But not in worship music.
In worship songs, the most common metaphors are not used to highlight unspoken truth but to provide broad, generic imagery to allow everyone to project their own circumstances and situations into congregational singing
This is why we sing about mountains, oceans, valleys and storms; they can mean anything.
However, the flip side of meaning anything is that they also mean nothing.
Metaphors should illuminate. But in worship lyrics, they obfuscate.
So why do we use these tired images to represent difficulty and struggle and avoid speaking about specific issues in our corporate worship songs?
When I think of all the people in my church community – and the other communities I’ve been part of over the years- there are two issues that are most commonly hidden by generic worship metaphors that many people are struggling with: sickness and financial difficulties.
These are almost universal issues for families and communities, yet we avoid singing about them specifically. Instead we turn to ‘mountains’ and ‘storms’.
I believe this is because it is uncomfortable and irrelevant for those who struggle with them the least: the rich and healthy.
And in America, the rich and healthy are almost synonymous.
When we sing about mountains and oceans it can mean struggling to pay the rent OR struggling to sell your $750k second home because the market has dipped!
When we sing about storms it can mean battling to pay for insulin OR the turmoil of your portfolio on the stock market!
Our commonly used worship metaphors enable the rich to avoid considering the daily financial difficulties of their brothers and sisters. And it is all done under the guise of worshipping ‘together’.
This is accepted by rich, middle class and poor alike because we have been taught corporate worship is an opportunity for personal connection between you and God.
But it isn’t.
Gathered worship times are the coming together around a table. To share in joy, love and co-suffering. Tears and laughter. Empathy, compassion and openness; together in the presence of God
Singing a worship song that isn’t directly speaking to my life circumstances should not be seen as boring or irrelevant. In the Kingdom of God; my sister’s struggle is my struggle.To sing about it brings dignity and solidarity with them
“But mountains and oceans and storms are Biblical imagery” I hear you say.
Well, so are Mammon, storehouses and the eye of a needle. But we don’t sing about them. I wonder why.
Finally, my dear family, pray for us, that the word of the Lord will go forward quickly and be glorified, as it has among you; and that we may be rescued from evil and wicked people. Not all, you see, have faith! But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen you and guard you from the evil one.
We are confident in the Lord about you, that you are doing, and will continue to do, what we instructed you. May the Lord direct your hearts towards the love of God and the patience of the Messiah.
Listen to my resounding noise, God,
heed my plea.
From the end of the earth I call to you,
while my heart flags.
To a crag that rises high above me may you lead me,
because you’ve been a shelter for me,
a vigorous tower before the enemy.
I shall reside in your tent permanently,
I shall shelter in the hiding place of your wings. (Rise)
Because you, God, have listened to my pledges;
you gave their possession to the people who hold your name in awe.
You will add days to the king’s days;
his years will be like generation after generation.
He will live permanently before God;
appoint commitment and truthfulness so they may preserve him.
Thus I shall make music to your name permanently,
in making good my pledges day by day.
Psalm 61, Bible for Everyone