Sunday, February 21, 2010

More Thoughts from Peterson as We Head to Church

I'm lucky enough to be a member of a church where I like most of the members. But I know that not everyone has that experience.

I'm lucky enough to be a member of a church where I feel like we're doing the work that God intends us to do. But I've been a member of a church that left me exhausted and drained for the rest of my Sunday, so I know what it's like to not have that kind of church home.

Some of us are lucky: we have a good church or we can leave to find a better church. Some of us, for whatever reason, have to stay where we are, no matter how unnourishing we find our circumstances.

Here are some Peterson quotes to make us feel good about church, no matter our individual situations.

First, the quotes from yesterday give us some historical context and bear repeating:

Eugene Peterson's latest book, Practice Resurrection: A Conversation with Growing Up in Christ talks about people dealing with difficult church experiences and with their longing for a perfect church. He suggests that we look at our imperfect churches in a new way: "Do you think that maybe this is exactly what God intended when he created the church?" (page 14).

He says this about the early church: "Sometimes we hear our friends talk in moony, romantic terms of the early church. 'We need to get back to being just like the early church.' Heaven help us. These churches were a mess, and Paul wrote his letters to them to try to clean up the mess" (page 16). He notes, "The Ephesian letter is unique in that it is the only one that is not provoked by some problem, whether of behavior or belief" (page 15).

Here are some of his thoughts about the current church:

"I realized that this was my place and work in the church, to be a witness to the truth that dazzles gradually" (page 27).

"There are no 'successful' congregations in Scripture or in the history of the church" (page 29).

" . . . worship isn't intended to make anything happen. Worship brings us into a presence in which God makes something happen" (page 37).

"If we are going to grow up into Christ we have to do it in the company of everyone who is responding to the call of God. Whether we happen to like them or not has nothing to do with it" (page 36).

I found that last quote particularly powerful, since interpersonal conflicts are so likely to tear the church apart. What would happen if we kept that quote in our mind when dealing with our fellow congregants?

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