One day spent in your house, this beautiful place of worship,
beats thousands spent on Greek island beaches.
I’d rather scrub floors in the house of my God
than be honored as a guest in the palace of sin.
All sunshine and sovereign is God,
generous in gifts and glory.
He doesn’t scrimp with his traveling companions.
It’s smooth sailing all the way with God-of-the-Angel-Armies.
Psalm 84:11-12, The Message
I remember feeling shock when those words went from my eyes to my mind to my mouth for the first time, “All sunshine and sovereign is God, generous in gifts and glory. He doesn’t scrimp with his traveling companions . . .”
Who writes this way? Is this okay? This is the Bible! I don’t know why I started reading The Message in the Psalms, but that’s where I cracked it open. Dr. Peterson would have approved.
The writers of the Psalms wrote for the dramatic conveyance of their souls and Eugene Peterson did too. I was a slow fan of Eugene Peterson. After reading, A Burning In my Bones, The Authorized Biography of Eugene H. Peterson, by Winn Collier, I am assured that Dr. Peterson would have been happy with that – with the slow warm up.
Dr. Peterson was not a fan of celebrity life. He would have rather been with the Lord, alone in Montana, with his wife and family, with his church, intently present and listening to another person sort their soul with Jesus. Peterson knew that affection for the rave was toxic for the soul. He was not a fan.
Throughout my years of service to Jesus and His church I have felt tension between pastoral care and active entrepreneurial mission leadership. Sometimes I created an internal voice of condemnation and would alternate between these two ways of being in search of some kind of recipe for success.
Over the last week while reading Winn’s account of Eugene’s life I became aware that the Lord has helped me bring what might be considered “opposite” ways of being together. Loving people and joining Jesus in building a congregation in a university setting has let me grow pastoral roots in community while simultaneously entering into the annual renewal and experimental aspects of mission.
I was glad for this realization. So there it is even in Psalm 84: A house and a journey, a life and people of worship. My life with Christ doesn’t need to look like anyone else’s, nor does anyone else’s need to look like mine. The same God-of-the-Angel-Armies is sunshine and sovereign for us all!
One of the benefits of reading biography is the inflection made possible by observing another person’s life. The words I had been using to describe my own life are given a new voice and new perspective as I listen into the other person’s journey with God.
I never met Dr. Peterson when he was teaching at Regent College in Vancouver. But his influence has been all around me. While I completed a Doctorate of Ministry through Golden Gate Seminary, two of the students in my cohort had Dr. Peterson as their field supervisor. They met regularly with him at his home in Montana.
I was so impressed and I was so happy. From a distance our whole cohort benefited from the realism provided by his hospitality. Because a “celebrity” made time for two very normal fellows we were all reminded to keep it real: love Jesus, love people.
Every normal life in Christ is meant to be a new song. I have come to believe that one of the evidences of new life in a local congregation are new songs. While pastoring at Cityview, previous to Origin, my friend Lalpi wrote new songs.
Here’s one – I offer it again in honour of Dr. Peterson, ‘Sing to the Lord a New Song.’ The lyrics written and performed by Lalpi Guite include this phrase that took my breath away: sunshine and sovereign.