Boy oh boy… we sure get into some great “meat”, in this discussion group for The Jesus Way (by Eugene Peterson). There are 8 of us, who have been going to our church’s “Summer Reading Club” every 2nd Tuesday, and everyone contributes such good thoughts… plus, people seem quite comfortable about saying so when they DON’T understand something.
And this book, well, you know Peterson. We could read it several times before we’ve gleaned everything out of it. The Mom has found it a challenge to actually get the reading done on time–but it’s been good to stretch her, and it’s such “good stuff” that she just doesn’t want to miss out! Next time through, she wants to go very slowly and read the scripture references alongside.
Our latest chapters have to do with Isaiah, talking about God’s holiness, and His beauty. (Now to see if we can make notes without copying TOO many quotes!) Of course, Peterson points out that “holy” isn’t something that belongs only in a church. “The holy is an interior fire, a passion for living in and for God, a capacity for exuberance in the presence of God.” But while holiness is involved in everyday life, there is also the “other side of the coin” to think about (Peterson would NEVER use such a cliche!!): “Holy ground is dangerous ground. The holy is never, never something of God that we can take as if we owned it and use for our own purposes.”
There is an interesting lesson about preaching, here. In the first part of Isaiah, he is given a command to preach to the Israelites, but is told that their ears will be closed and they won’t hear. If he changes his message to be more pleasing and more understandable by them (but God is Holy–not a puzzle to be figured out), they will hear it–but they won’t get the full, true message. And if they repent and miss out on their discipline (the exile), they’ll also miss out on a relationship with God. Today, if we water down the true Message and give people the impression that God can fit into whatever they want, we’re robbing them of the truth. Sure, the true Message may be one people don’t like, but it’s only the Truth that will satisfy the god-hunger deep inside them.
“…inconvenient as it is, baffling as it is, and disappointing as it is to anyone who was expecting the way to be paved with consumer rewards, The Holy is non-negotiable.”
“We cannot reduce God to our experience or our understanding of him.”
The second chapter about Isaiah in the book, talks about how the “suffering Servant” refers to us as well as to Jesus; and about the true meaning of the word “beauty”. “The distinctive thing about beauty is that it reveals“. There is discussion about the mystery of how suffering can be beautiful… after all, it often reveals things like… a community of people loving each other (even bonding) in difficult times, building of character, etc. (That’s OUR discussion btw, not exactly what Peterson says.)
As we say, there is SO much here–we’ll never be able to note it all in the first reading!
Walk to Rivendell: We climb a zig-zag path to the brow of a hill on the west side of the Barrow-downs (it’s about 9 am, this 6th day of travel).