Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Peterson, 1987. Chapter 1, "Greek Stories and Hebrew Prayers"

Peterson, Eugene. Working the Angles: the Shape of Pastoral Integrity. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1987. Kindle Edition.

In his lengthy introduction Peterson lays out the idea that a geometric shape is determined by its angles. The three angles he sees as most important in shaping the pastoral life are prayer, Scripture, and spiritual direction. Those are the pastor’s indispensable elements.

Chapter 1, "Greek Stories and Hebrew Prayers” (Loc. 200).

Sometimes in the midst of chaos a pastor seems to be non-essential. Peterson compares it to “putting plastic flowers in people’s drab lives” (Loc. 209). On the contrary, pastors are called to minister in Word and Sacrament, something which may seem irrelevant at times and does not fit into our framework of sense. Yet throughout history communities have always set aside pastors to minister in word and sacrament.

What is essential in all this? If we hold to a life of prayer it will keep “Pastoral work true to itself centered in word and sacrament” (Loc. 254).

Peterson uses the ancient Greeks as an illustration of reality. The gods were selfish and capricious yet the Greeks sought knowledge and wisdom. The work of the pastor is in large part preparing people to live and die in a fallen world. Peterson affirms (Loc. 318) that in the 19th century prayer was “pushed out of the action” as enlightenment values overcame the Church. When biblical history was recast as a sort of mythic narrative, free from the power of God, the vivid life of prayer declined as well. The solution is to return the Psalms and the life of prayer to the center of Christian community life.

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