Thursday, February 08, 2007

Eugene Peterson's Bible study

This morning, Eugene Peterson (The Message and the Renovare movement and materials) led Bible Study. It's at 7:30 a.m., but the large room was pretty full. The thing about Peterson is he's deep, and he's been doing this a long time, so a Bible study turns into a sermon in the best possible sense -- a reflection on the meaning of Scripture in (faith) life. I took notes (which are below) so I'd remember the details and be able to share them with you. But I wish I'd showered in him -- let the words and beyond the words shower upon me. I'm not a recaller of details -- I'm more of an absorber and integrater of ideas/experiences -- so I take notes to recall. It is the washedness, the cascade, that moves and feeds me. (So spending time with Todd Agnew on stage later meant a lot for my soul.)
Anyway -- Eugene Peterson. I'm going to get the recording, if they do one, so you can hear.
Here are my notes; the Scripture is Luke 1: 67-80, known as the Canticle or Prayer of Zechariah).
(The "i" references are Peterson's -- his reflections)

We pray in the large context of God’s creation and salvation. Prayer is answering speech.

Beginners and all of us “wish upwards”; this is the beginning of prayer.

I’d like to be remembered as man who demolished all the perfectionism in prayer. God is generous with his children learning (forever) how to pray. We don’t know how to pray, and yet we pray.

You never really learn how to pray – like climbing a mountain: you never learn to do it, but you learn to make your way.

One of the advantages we have is a textbook for prayer, used by Jews and Christians forever. For us, the Psalms are in the center of the Bible. If the five books of Moses are the starting place – the basic word of God – and the Gospels are the starting place – the revelation of Jesus – the Psalms, our textbook for prayer, are right in the middle.

Prayer is a response to the word of God – the word we get in Scripture and as individuals in our daily lives.

One of the problems of the American church is that we have prayer groups and Bible study groups, as if we could be specialists.

For 18 centuries, the church prayed the day, which orders the day. Regular set prayer rescues us from the tyranny of circumstances and of emotion. It forms our lives around and in God. (We lost a lot in the post-enlightenment after the first 1800 years.) They become the calisthenics for faith.

Zechariah’s prayer is just what I’m after today. There are five prayers in Luke – in church order (the order assigned in the hours)

  1. Mary’s prayer: “Let it be with me according to your word.” (a prayer of acceptance) (early morning)
  2. Zechariah’s prayer: “Blessed is the Lord, the Lord God of Israel.” (morning)
  3. Angel’s prayer: “Glory be to God in the highest” (noon)
  4. Mary’s prayer: Magnificat “My soul magnifies the Lord.” (evening)
  5. Simeon’s prayer: Nunc dimitis “Let it be with me according to your word.” (nighttime)

You can tell from Zechariah’s prayer he’s been praying the Psalms all his life – 19 allusions to the Hebrew Scriptures in his prayer; 10 from the Psalms. The HS didn’t give him a new prayer on the spot; but he had soaked himself in God speaking our lives into being through the prayers of the Scriptures.

The death of prayer is generalization, abstraction – or just praying for whatever happens. The death of prayer is also overdetermining, functionality. Prayer is intimacy with God.

The prayer begins with Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit; it ends with John being strong in the Holy Spirit.

Luke is the only gospel writer who wasn’t in a face-to-face conversational relationship with Jesus. He’s very aware he’s in on the 2nd phase of Xn life. As a result, he’s very aware of the power and necessity of the HS – and that the way you get in on the face-to-face with Jesus as a 2nd phase Xn is through prayer.

Salvation is not merely saving us from our own sins, but saving us into the vast “country” of God, into God’s glory creation. We are saved into the kin(g)dom of God. It’s not just knowing where you are on the map; it’s taking in the fragrance of God. (Being & becoming in God.) It’s not about getting to the top, getting to heaven, getting to the end. The Way is about living, memory, etc.

Zechariah is praying his whole lifetime in the moment of holding the baby Jesus. It’s not the end (– it’s the wholeness, fruition, fullness).

Then he speaks to John: the prophet, the one – we! us! pastortypes – whose work is to be identified as a prophet, preparing the Way of the Lord for others. Not a historian, but telling people what’s going on, which has to do with the forgiveness of sins.

Then he speaks to Jesus: the dawn, the dayspring, from on high, breaking upon us to give light to those who are in darkness. The word “break” is related to scope – like someone seeing everything and noticing. Us. We’re suddenly in the world of God’s revelation in a fresh new way.

The conclusion of the prayer: Zechariah has been speechless since the conception of John in Elizabeth’s womb, and when he gets his tongue back -- his words have been nine months gestating in his womb – the first thing is that they burst out in prayer. He prays us into the company of those whom God has used in the world.

Prayer keeps company with the multigenerational (ancient, global) followers, faithful, pray-ers.

The center of the prayer is, “and you, child, shall be called the prophet of the most high. You shall go before the Lord to prepare his ways.” You, John. You, Eugene. (You, Elane.)

Who am I? I am the prophet, to given the word to prepare the Lord’s way. It’s not my way, it’s not my word, it’s not my agenda. It’s not my world. And the conclusion is not mine, but the light, the Lord’s – this country of salvation that I walk in, live in.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

What a deep and fresh look into prayer this is for me. I am totally enchanted by the fashion Peterson weaves the contemporary Christian life and more specifically Christian fundamentals.