One of my favorite fringe benefits in this mothering life is the broadening of my world. I routinely listen to conversations about welding and truck repair, have sat through hours and hours of livestock shows, and a few weekends ago, I witnessed my first triathlon. I watched in awe as, one by one, the participants crossed the finish line after a grueling half mile swim, 11 mile bike ride, and 3 mile run, and I asked myself this question:
“What would happen if I put one tenth of that kind of effort and focused attention into the areas of my life where God has put His finger and said, “Grow up!”
I’m working on that in a small and quiet way by memorizing Colossians 3. Paul begins the chapter with a reminder that it matters what we think about, and that the resurrection of Christ from the dead resonates today in every decision to purposefully focus on the “things over which Christ presides.” And since I do not hold to dualism between the secular and the sacred, that includes everything! This mindset celebrates the largeness of God and invites me to exercise my imagination in a discovery of the beautiful and the sacred in my everyday routine.
Community and accountability are always key for me in a memorization project, so I’m enjoying the fellowship around Colossians 3 at Do Not Depart. I invite you to join with us in memorizing and meditating on this important passage of Scripture. Lisa has developed a variety of helpful resources to get you started, and they’re all available here. There’s also a Hide His Word Facebook gathering where the focus is on encouragement to memorize Scripture in community.
“Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.”
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.”
If you were part of this year’s book discussion group around C.S. Lewis’s Till We Have Faces, you’ll be interested to know that Eugene Peterson references the book in his appendix as recommended reading on the practice of resurrection with these words:
“The last novel [C.S. Lewis] wrote, Till We Have Faces, he thought was his best. I agree. But it is also the most difficult, the most demanding. The root of the difficulty is that it is about the most demanding of human tasks, becoming mature, growing up to the measure of the stature of Jesus Christ.”
As with all of Peterson’s Conversations in Spiritual Theology, this volume is best read in concert with the text. When I read through and later taught the book of Revelation, I used Peterson’s Reversed Thunder to help my understanding and then wrote about it here. Currently, I’m reading a leisurely path through the Old Testament prophet Jeremiah alongside Run with the Horses. And . . .one last thought: if you are ever curious about what it might have been like to sit under Eugene Peterson’s preaching ministry for a series of decades, he has released a collection of his sermons this year, As Kingfishers Catch Fire, and I happily reviewed that book here on the blog.
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