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Working the Angles: The Shape of Pastoral…

Working the Angles: The Shape of Pastoral Integrity (original 1987; udgave 1989)

af Eugene H Peterson (Forfatter)

MedlemmerAnmeldelserPopularitetGennemsnitlig vurderingOmtaler
920317,671 (4.2)2
Eugene Peterson issues a provocative call for pastors to abandon their preoccupation with image and standing, administration, success, and economic viability, and to return to the three basic acts critical to the pastoral ministry: praying, reading Scripture, and giving spiritual direction.
Titel:Working the Angles: The Shape of Pastoral Integrity
Forfattere:Eugene H Peterson (Forfatter)
Info:William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company (1989), 137 pages
Samlinger:Dit bibliotek

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Working the Angles: The Shape of Pastoral Integrity af Eugene H. Peterson (1987)


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I read this for my first Seminary class and for some reason I took it negatively. I would like to find that paper and find out why it struck such a nerve, because re-reading it I find it challenging and inspiring. All pastors can fall into a rut, but Pastor Peterson always opens my eyes to what is really going on in what we are fortunate enough to do and challenges and encourages me to do better. I honestly think every pastor should read one of his books every year. Reading it in 2013, there is a lot I underlined and a lot of gold. Don’t know what I was thinking in 2006, and would like to submit Dr. Utech a different 500-word reaction paper. I am surprised he passed me!
This book is dated and would benefit if he were to update it. Some of his examples are only amplified by what has developed in the past 15 years.
Prayer, Scripture, and Spiritual direction for the pastor and as the pastor relates to his people. Some gold – “Every meeting with another person is a privilege. In pastoral conversation I have chances that many never get … chances to spy out suppressed glory, ignored blessing, forgotten grace.” “There is so much about this person … I don’t know. …Layered years of experience, … feelings of anger and joy and faith and despair that will never be articulated. …dreams and fantasies of vanity and accomplishment, sexuality and adventure, that will never see the light of day. …I had better be quiet and listen and watch. There is more here than meets the eye. What has God been doing with this person before he or she showed up in my study?”
Eugene Peterson is one of my favorite authors.
( )
  Luke_Brown | Sep 10, 2016 |
Peterson never fails to both amaze and mystify me. Sometimes reading his books can be such drudgery, carrying me off into corners of ideas that are quite uninteresting, only to suddenly turn into a phrase, idea, or passage that will change my life forever.

This book calls pastors back to the fundamentals of the calling: prayer, scripture, and spiritual direction. When so many ministries are religious machines, Peterson reminds us that we are not dealing with a social phenomenon but woth eternal souls. And, as such, we are required to value the simple yet complex things that construct and maintain souls.

Much of modern religious work is a giant infotainment, self-help society. Peterson is a prophet that calls us back to our senses. The work of building an eternal soul is a lifelong deal, no formulaic nor given to bromides, but deep that calls unto deep.

Read it. It will bore you, challenge you, delight you, and anger you. You need them all. ( )
  markmobley | Dec 14, 2006 |
Working the Angles: The Shape of Pastoral Integrity
Eugene H. Peterson

Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1993, 192 pages

“American pastors are abandoning their posts, left and right, and at an alarming rate,€? begins Eugene Peterson in this thought-provoking work. But he doesn’t have in mind pastors who leave their churches to get other jobs. He is concerned with pastors who have abandoned their calling as pastors. Though they remain on the payroll of the church, these pastors “have gone whoring after other gods. What they do with their time under the guise of pastoral ministry hasn’t the remotest connection with what the church’s pastors have done for most of twenty centuriesâ€? (1). The pages which follow swing a double-edged sword which cuts away at the consumer mentality of many churches and pastors, while at the same time giving sharp definition to the biblical priorities of the true shepherd.

“Three pastoral acts are so basic, so critical, that they determine the shape of everything else. The acts are praying, reading Scripture, and giving spiritual directionâ€? (3). Since almost no one notices whether a pastor does these things or not, they suffer widespread neglect. But these three “acts of attentionâ€? (towards God, his Word, and his people) are essential to ministry. A metaphor from trigonometry accounts for both the title and the structure of the book. Peterson writes: “I see these three essential acts of ministry as the angles of a triangle. Most of what we see in a triangle is lines. The lines come in various proportions to each other but what determines the proportions and the shape of the whole are the angles. The visible lines of pastoral work are preaching, teaching, and administration. The small angles of this ministry are prayer, Scripture, and spiritual directionâ€? (5). Peterson reminds us that if the lines of ministry “are disconnected from the angles and drawn willfully or at random, they no longer make a triangle. Pastoral work disconnected from the angle actions . . . is no longer given its shape by God. Working the angles is what gives shape and integrity to the daily work of pastorsâ€? (5).

Peterson then divides his book into three sections, each with three chapters and each devoted to one of the three angles. There may seem nothing unique about a book devoted to prayer, bible-reading, and spiritual direction, but there is nothing conventional about Peterson’s handling of the subject. His discussion of prayer draws on “Greek Stories and Hebrew Prayers (chapter one), with a heavy emphasis on the Psalms. “The Psalms provide the language, the aspirations, the energy for the community as it comes together in prayerâ€? (40). “Praying by the Bookâ€? (chapter two) continues this emphasis, reminding us that “prayer is never the first word; it is always the second word. God has the first word. Prayer is answering speechâ€? (45). The reason why our prayers so often fall flat or come out “stagnant and staleâ€? is because they have been “uprooted from the soil of the word of God. These so-called prayers are cut-flower words, arranged in little vases for table decorationsâ€? (44). Prayer is nourished and flourishes when it is firmly rooted in the creative and redemptive word of the living God. The five books of the Psalms, which according to Peterson are so structured in parallel to the five books of Torah, provide us with language for answering God in all the seasons and stations of life. “Everything that a person can possibly feel, experience, and say is brought into expression before God in the Psalmsâ€? (57). The Psalms is where we as leaders of God’s people learn the language of prayer.

Pastors need “Prayer Timeâ€? (chapter three), which is why God gave us the Sabbath. “Sabbath is not a day off,â€? contends Peterson, “and it is inexcusable that pastors, learned in Scripture and guardians of the sacred practices, should so misname itâ€? (66). Peterson then provides both the theological basis for observing Sabbath and some practical parameters on how to do so. He doesn’t say what you might think. Grounding his thoughts in Psalm 92, Peterson urges that Sabbath-keeping involves both “praying and playingâ€? (74-79). The Puritans were wrong in eliminating play from Sabbath. Secularists, who eliminate prayer, are even worse. The two belong together. Playing and praying “are alike enough to share the same day and different enough to require each other for a complementary wholenessâ€? (75). Peterson then relates his own practice of Sabbath-keeping, which alone is worth the price of the book.

The second angle of pastoral ministry relates to Scripture. In reading Scripture, we are “Turning Eyes into Earsâ€? (chapter four). The goal of reading the Word is to listen for the voice of the God who speaks. When we read Scripture without listening to God, “Scripture is sabotagedâ€? (90). Reading Scripture is “but one element in a four-beat sequence: speaking, writing, reading, listening . . . The two middle terms of the sequence are subordinate to the first term (speaking) and the final term (listening); the book (combining writer and reader) is in between, the tissue that connects the speaker’s mouth with the listener’s earâ€? (99). Unfortunately, much of our pastoral reading involves no listening. Peterson reflects on three conditions which account for why this is so – “a remarkable invention . . . an unfortunate education . . . [and] a faulty job descriptionâ€? (90) – and reminds us of the brilliantly conceived metaphor of Psalm 40:6, which literally reads “ears thou hast dug for me.â€? We are block heads – with eyes, nose, and mouth, but no ears – until God digs them. “God gets a pick and shovel and digs through the cranial granite, opening a passage that will give access to the interior depths, into the mind and heartâ€? (101).

Chapter five, “Contemplative exegesis,â€? deals with the “surgical workâ€? of Scriptural exegesis: “cutting through layers of history, culture, and grammar; laying bare the skeletal syntax and grammatical muscleâ€? (108) while also warning us of the danger of treating the Scriptures as a textbook, which they “most emphatically are notâ€? (112). We are to remember that “pastors do their work in the midst of this paradox: dead letters written by human hands are living words spoken by Godâ€? (113) and that the Bible contains revelation, not just information, from God. God’s Word tells a story, a narrative with “a beginning and endingâ€? in which “a catastrophe has occurredâ€? and “salvation is plottedâ€? as “characters developâ€? (120). This drama lies under and gives significance to all the details of the text and “it is fatal to exegesis when this narrative sense is lost, or goes into eclipseâ€? (124). We are to pay attention not only to what God says in his word, but also to how he says it.

“Gaza Notes,â€? (chapter six) reminds us that “reading Scripture is not . . . an autonomous activity . . . The Spirit brings people together over Scriptureâ€? (130). Like the Ethiopian eunuch, we need people to climb into our chariots and guide us to Jesus in the Scripture. We must “always read the Scriptures with an eye for was Christum triebet, ‘what impels us to Christ’â€? (128-129). “The Scriptures are God’s word in Jesus; Jesus is God’s word in Scriptureâ€? (129). Peterson warns us of dangerous hermeneutical paths which bypass raw Scripture and suppress “the particularities – awkward, absurd, everyday particularitiesâ€? (133) – to which the text gives attention. “What pastors must not do is extract principles from Scripture, distill truths from the gospel . . . The great attraction for distilling Scripture into truths and morals and lessons is simply laziness. The lazy pastor no longer has to bother with the names, the cities, the odd embarrassing details and awkward miracles that refuse to fit into a modern understanding of the good life. Across this land pastors have turned their studies into ‘stills,’ illegal distilleries that extract ideas and morals from the teeming narrative of Scriptureâ€? (134-135). People love to ingest such 100-proof moralism and get a quick rush of exhilaration from it, but it is poison. In fact, Peterson traces the practice of “distilling truths from Scriptureâ€? to Gnosticism, in which “matter is evil and history inconvenientâ€? (135). There are some hints here that Peterson might deny the reality of authorial intent and actual meaning in the text (a quote on page 137 from Hans-Georg Gadamer certainly indicates such). I disagree with him on this. But his reminder that Scripture is more narrative and history than a systematic theology textbook is well taken. If we lose sight of the redemptive-historical nature of divine revelation, our exegesis can easily fall into the ditch of moralism.

The third section of the book deals with the angle of “Spiritual Direction.â€? “Spiritual direction takes place,â€? says Peterson, “when two people agree to give their full attention to what God is doing in one (or both) of their lives and seek to respond in faithâ€? (150). This is not merely a matter of meeting weekly for Bible study and prayer. Rather, “spiritual direction . . . explores and develops [the] absorbing and devout attentiveness to ‘the specific detail everyday incidents,’ ‘the everyday occurrences of contemporary life’â€? (150). It means “taking seriously, with a disciplined attention and imagination, what others take casuallyâ€? (151). Chapter seven focuses on “Being a Spiritual Director,â€? by clarifying on the pastoral task of paying attention to the details of people’s lives – and looking for God in those details. “What is required is that we bring the same disciplined prayer and discerning attentiveness into the commonplaces that we bring to the preparation of lectures and sermons, sharing the crises of illness and death, celebrating births and marriages, launching campaigns and stirring up visionsâ€? (160).

But pastors should also pursue “Getting a Spiritual Directorâ€? (chapter eight). “There is a saying among physicians that the doctor who is his own doctor has a fool for a doctorâ€? (165). Since we all “want coddling, not healingâ€? and “prefer comfort to wholeness,â€? it is vital that we as pastors submit ourselves to the spiritual oversight of others. The widespread loss of this is evident in the accumulating wreckage of fallen pastors – “pastors who don’t pray, pastors who don’t grow in faith, pastors who can’t tell the difference between culture and the Christ, pastors who chase fads, pastors who are cynical and shopworn, pastors who know less about prayer after twenty years of praying than they did on their ordination, pastors with arrogant, outsized egosâ€? (166). We who so regularly exercise authority also need to practice obedience. We need something more personal and intimate than mere lectures, books, workshops, and conferences. It is not healthy to be both “the disciplinarian of my inner life, the one being disciplined, and the supervisor of my disciplinarian – a lot of roles of to be shifting in and out of through the dayâ€? (173)! Peterson shares his own experience of coming to realize his need for a spiritual director, praying for one, and observing the resulting benefits and changes in his life.

Chapter nine discusses “Practicing Spiritual Directionâ€? by reflecting on extractions from the journal of George Fox who “ran into [a] discouraging sequence of spiritual misdirectionsâ€? (179). Peterson reminds us that “spiritual direction is difficult. Pastoral wisdom is not available on prescriptionâ€? (179). It is quite easy for physicians of the soul to become miserable comforters. There is the danger of turning “the conversation of spiritual direction into theological inquiryâ€? (180). This effectively reduces the persons we are helping to fodder for the sermon, as we read them the way we read a book. We can also fall into the trap of viewing the troubled soul not “as a person to be directed but as a consumer of spiritual goods, a possible buyer of a remedyâ€? (183). Another false diagnosis is thinking that if we can only correct a person’s theology, we will correct them.What then should a spiritual director do? Peterson suggests some positives: “cultivate an attitude of aweâ€? (188); “cultivate an attitude of my ignoranceâ€? (189); and “cultivate a predisposition to prayerâ€? (191). I must remember that I am not the primary actor in the drama of another person’s life. God is. “God has been at work with this person since birth. Everything that has taken place in this life has in some way or another taken place in the context of a good creation and an intended salvation. Everythingâ€? (191). My simple task is to help orient the troubled soul to the God with whom he or she has to do. “People go for long stretches of time without being aware of that, thinking that it is money, or sex, or work, or children, or parents, or a political cause, or an athletic competition, or learning with which they must deal. Any one or a combination of these subjects can absorb them and for a time give them the meaning and purpose that human beings seem to require. But then there is a slow stretch of boredom. Or a disaster. Or a sudden collapse of meaning. They want more. They want Godâ€? (192). The task of the spiritual director is to cultivate an awareness of God. “More often than we think, the unspoken, sometimes unconscious reason that persons seek out conversation with the pastor is a desire to keep company with Godâ€? (192).

Prayer. Reading Scripture. Spiritual Direction. These are the angles that must be worked in order to give shape and integrity to the pastoral vocation. If heeded, Peterson’s challenge could not help but deepen the spiritual life and ministry of pastors.

Eugene Peterson is a rare breed. Pastor and poet. Theologian and mystic. Heavenly-minded, yet earthly enough to have dirt under his literary fingernails. I think that this unique combination in Peterson accounts for why his books help me so much. Yes, I sometimes find myself differing with his Lutheran theology. I occasionally dismiss his exegesis as too far removed from the literal-historical-grammatical context. But still I am helped by the spirituality of this man and his books in ways that many (indeed) most other books for pastors have not helped me and I enthusiastically recommend Working the Angles to other pastors.

Reviewed by Brian G. Hedges
  brianghedges | Sep 21, 2005 |
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Eugene Peterson issues a provocative call for pastors to abandon their preoccupation with image and standing, administration, success, and economic viability, and to return to the three basic acts critical to the pastoral ministry: praying, reading Scripture, and giving spiritual direction.

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