Eugene Petersen died this week. He described himself as a pastor, but he was also an author. I met him one time in 1988, at a week long pastor’s week in northern Indiana. He was my unofficial mentor from afar. I read many of his books. I have bought many books that I hope to read, but never get to them, but I have always read the books I bought by Eugene Peterson.
Eugene was a pastor at one church for 28 years. It was Bel Air Presbyterian Church in Maryland It was the only church where he was pastor. It was a church plant, and it grew large, but was never a “mega church.” After he left that church, he became a professor and authored many more books on pastoral vocation and the Bible . He has been described as a pastor to pastors. He loved the church, and the holy book of the church, the Bible. His book on the prophet Jonah ( the guy swallowed by the whale ) helped me with my call to ministry.
During the time he was pastor at Bel Air, he has a Bible study with some of the members of the church. Out of this local Bible study, came The Message. The Message is “ … an idiomatic translation of the original languages of the Bible ( from wikipedia )”. From 1993 to 2002 he published different parts of the Bible, until he had done the whole thing. It is not a direct translation of the words, but it is an interpretation of words into contemporary language. It is an amazing transformational way to look at the Bible. This translation was for regular people to get them interested, and passionate, of the words written by a variety of people over a long course of history of the Bible. It is a great gift to the church.
Here is his translation of John 3:16, a famous passage often seen at football games :
16-18 “This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again. Anyone who trusts in him is acquitted; anyone who refuses to trust him has long since been under the death sentence without knowing it. And why? Because of that person’s failure to believe in the one-of-a-kind Son of God when introduced to him.
His translation called “The Message” is disarming and inviting. His role of pastor to pastors was also important. Someone put together seven things that we learn from Eugene:
- Resurrection starts with grace.
- There are no shortcuts to prayer.
- We need the Sabbath.
- If you have ever had the Bible used as a weapon against you…
- Less is more.
- A totally different look at the book Revelation ( not scary ).
- Christian maturity is for the long haul.
Thank you Eugene for all you have done for me as a pastor. Well done good and faithful servant to the church and the Bible. You have arrived at the peace that passes all understanding.