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Practice Resurrection: A Conversation on Growing Up in Christ (Eugene Peterson's Five "Conversations" in Spiritual Theology) Paperback – February 8, 2013
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From Publishers Weekly
Christian maturity and character formation isn't about finding a strategy, or setting goals, or measuring congregational growth by market analysis, argues the writer in a chapter-by-chapter analysis of the New Testament book of Ephesians. Professor emeritus at Vancouver's Regent College and author of more than 34 books, including the popular Message paraphrase of the Bible, Peterson practices what he calls theological aesthetics, giving new vitality to such common words in the Christian vocabulary as saint, gift, and church. Christians are called to live out the resurrected life that was incarnate first in Jesus and then in us, the author asserts. It's no insult to the veteran writer to say that his tone is sometimes imperative and occasionally even a little cranky. After all, the message isn't new—but the commentary is, as usual, thought provoking and helpful for readers who want a different, sometimes contrarian, perspective on Christian discipleship. (Feb.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
-- author of Reaching Out without Dumbing Down
"This is the perfect culmination to Eugene Peterson's fivefold Conversations in Spiritual Theology. How much the church would be transfigured if we could all more fully live as one with Christ in His Resurrection! You will delight in the way Peterson takes portions of Ephesians and displays the results of 'rocket' verbs and other word choices, of disciplines toward maturity, and of movements 'upward, inward, Godward.' This is a life-transforming book for us all!"
"Peterson practices what he calls 'theological aesthetics,' giving new vitality to such common words in the Christian vocabulary as 'saint,' 'gift,' and 'church.'. . . The message isn't new -- but the commentary is, as usual, thought-provoking and helpful for readers who want a different, sometimes contrarian, perspective on Christian discipleship."
"This is the fifth and culminating contribution to Peterson's series of books on spiritual theology. . . . Peterson builds bridge after bridge from the biblical text to our contemporary context. . . . In both the goals of the book and the quality of the writing, Peterson has provided an extraordinary example of pastoral scholarship."
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Paul’s opening words in Colossians 3 remind his readers that the basis for all our right thinking and right behavior is the resurrection of Christ and the believer’s participation in resurrection living. Eugene Peterson has been helping me in my understanding of this as I have read and pondered Practice Resurrection: A Conversation on Growing Up in Christ. “Jesus alive and present” changes everything, and “a lively sense of Jesus’ resurrection, which took place without any help or comment from us, keeps us from attempting to take charge of our own development and growth.” (8)
Understanding the Practice of Resurrection Living
Mining truth from the book of Ephesians and laying it down beside the words of poets, novelists, and theologians, Peterson said-without-saying-it that a wide and rich reading life will enhance ones ability to read and learn from Scripture. Continually making “organic connection[s] from what you can see to what you can’t see,” he employs vivid metaphors to invite readers into Paul’s exhortation to practice resurrection:
“I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beg you to live [or walk] a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called.” (4:1) In the Greek, the word “worthy” comes embedded with a picture of a set of balancing scales. Does my life demonstrate a balance between my walk and my calling? It is interesting that the entire structure of Ephesians models this balance with chapters 1-3 focusing on God’s calling and chapters 4-6 examining the believer’s walk.
Paul’s body of Christ metaphor emphasizes the homeliness of the church gathered. On one level, we see a building; on another level, we witness the reality of people and relationships that make up the family of God; on a “spiritual” level there is the truth of the believer as the “dwelling place for God.” With thirty plus years as a pastor on his resume, Peterson urges believers that “when we consider church, we must not be more spiritual than God.”
In the practice of resurrection, we work, but it is far more accurate to think that “we are God’s work and doing God’s work.” This takes the focus off me (and all my valiant efforts to rescue God) and puts the spotlight on the truth that the entire revelation of God is the story of God at work alongside the invitation to join Him.
Understanding Prayer and the Church
When the Apostle Paul calls the church at Ephesus to grow up, his exhortation reverberates through the centuries, incorporating a call to live in fellowship with a local body of believers and to spend plenty of time speaking “the primary language that we use as we grow up in Christ” — this is prayer. Ephesians resonates with prayer language and comprises some of the richest and most fluently theological material in Paul’s writings. When my children began to reach the age when my own prayers for them seemed shallow and limiting, I memorized Ephesians 1 and the prayer in Ephesians 3 so that I could join Paul on our “knees before the Father” — instead of prescribing to God a plan of action that suited me.
The more I enjoy a book, the more difficulty I have in writing a review. Therefore, after having dog-eared pages and made a list of books that I need to read in follow-up, I feel as if I’ve only just begun to understand the words of Paul the Apostle and Peterson the Pastor on the practice of resurrection. This may be the best possible outcome, for I’m seeing that “growing up in Christ means growing up to a stature adequate to respond heart and soul to the largeness of God.” (130)
This, of course, we know is a process that will take all the long leisure of eternity to realize.
This book was provided by William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company in exchange for my review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
The way in which Peterson writes reminds me of the pleasure of a slow stroll with a learned man. As we walk, he stops to point out things that he sees and those things may remind him of something else, which enriches the experience. His knowledge is broad and his insights welcome.
There is so much to commend about this book, though I would leave with just a few short words from the author himself.
"In fifty years of being a pastor, my most difficult assignment continues to be the task of developing a sense among the people I serve of the soul-transforming implications of grace--a comprehensive, foundational reorientation from living anxiously by my wits and muscle to living effortlessly in the world of God's active presence. The prevailing North American culture (not much different from the Assyrian, Babylonian, Egyptian, Persian, Greek, and Roman cultures in which our biblical ancestors lived) is, to all intents and purposes, a context of persistent denial of grace" (p. 96).
"'Be subject to one another.' Maturity is not analogous to a body-building regimen in which we lift weights to build our muscles to the max, and then periodically stand before a mirror to examine our progress. Maturity is not a solitary state; it is relational. Maturity does not come about by making the most of ourselves; it is making the most of personal relationships. We don't do that by becoming stronger than the other, overpowering him or her, dominating either emotionally or physically. We don't impose ourselves. We enter into another person's life sharing both weakness and strength. We enter the life of another, but we don't force the entrance. Mutuality is always involved in 'be subject.'" (p. 234)
"There is more to church than sermons and sacraments, theology and liturgy, Bible studies and prayer meetings, committee minutes and mission statements. There are names, meals, small talk, births, deaths. There is us. Conversation is the form that language takes when the persons of the Trinity and the persons of the congregation are in the same room. The 'everything' that Tychicus will have to say to the Ephesians is no insignificant part of what it means to be the church. And you and I are Tychicus" (p. 271).
If you have the time and are willing to put in some thought work, I would strongly recommend this excellent series of books. Practice Resurrection, however, is a great capstone on the series. A book by one of my favorite authors about my favorite book of the Bible is a welcome addition to my library and one I will no doubt reference often in the future.