All posts tagged Eugene Peterson

  • The Jesus Revolution


    The Jesus Revolution
    Brian Zahnd

    You say you want a revolution
    Well, you know, we all want to change the world

    —The Beatles

    During the heady days of the Jesus Movement there was a pervasive conviction among the young people involved that we were part of something revolutionary. Our lives had been radically transformed by Jesus and we wanted to relive the Book of Acts. Church as usual was not an option for us. We weren’t interested in being conservative or playing it safe. We carried a strong counterculture ethos. We saw Jesus as a revolutionary and we wanted to be revolutionaries too. We shared much of the theology of conservative evangelicals, but our vibe was decidedly counterculture, with our long hair, patched blue jeans, and tie-dyed t-shirts. We preached on the streets, in the bars, and at rock concerts.

    More significantly we had inherited a distrust of government and a disdain for war from the Vietnam era. We saw a Christian critique of war as being faithful to the revolutionary Jesus of the Sermon on the Mount. We had no interest in serving the political causes of either Republicans or Democrats. We saw Christianity as a revolutionary movement that was incompatible with power-hungry political parties. We wanted to change the world in the name of Jesus; we weren’t interested in who was the current resident of the White House or the composition of Congress in the name of politics.
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  • War of the Lamb


    War of the Lamb
    Brian Zahnd

    Those who want to hold onto a primitive vision of a violent and retributive God often cite the white horse rider passage from Revelation. They will say something like this: “Jesus came the first time as a lamb, but he’s coming back the second time as a lion.” (Despite the fact that no lion is ever seen in Revelation — the lion is the Lamb!) By this they mean the nonviolent Jesus of the Gospels is going to mutate into what they fantasize is the hyper-violent Jesus of Revelation.

    Sadly, the proponents of this flawed interpretation seem to prefer their imagined violent Jesus of the future over the nonviolent Jesus of the Gospels. At a basic level they essentially see the Bible like this: After a long trajectory away from the divine violence of the Old Testament culminating in Jesus renouncing violence and calling his followers to love their enemies, the Bible in its final pages abandons a vision of peace and nonviolence as ultimately unworkable and closes with the most vicious portrayal of divine violence in all of Scripture.

    In this reading of Revelation, the way of peace and love which Jesus preached during his life and endorsed in his death, is rejected for the worn-out way of war and violence. When we literalize the militant images of Revelation we arrive at this conclusion: In the end even Jesus gives up on love and resorts to violence. Tragically, those who refuse to embrace the way of peace taught by Jesus use the symbolic war of Revelation 19 to silence the Sermon on the Mount.
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  • It’s My Birthday and I’m an Eclectic Christian


    It’s My Birthday and I’m an Eclectic Christian
    Brian Zahnd

    Today is my birthday and the Benedictine Sisters of Perpetual Adoration in Clyde, Missouri made me a birthday card. On the cover of the card is a cross composed of the “Five Words” (Cross, Mystery, Eclectic, Community, Revolution) that I talk about in the second chapter of Water To Wine. And since it involves the Sisters at Clyde, let me share a little bit of the Eclectic portion from the “Five Words” chapter. It’s a nice story…
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  • Patience

    Sunrise from Mount Sinai, November 9, 2006

    Brian Zahnd

    The first Sunday in November, 2006, we celebrated the twenty-fifth anniversary of Word of Life Church. Following the services Peri and I flew to Tel Aviv and from there to Eilat on the Red Sea. The next morning, with luggage in tow, we walked across the border to Egypt where we were met by Mina — a Coptic Christian guide, Akhmed — a Bedouin driver, and Mohammad — an Egyptian security guard from Cairo. We were on our way to climb Mount Sinai. I had made an appointment to meet God on the summit of Sinai at sunrise on November 9, 2006. This was the thirty-second anniversary of my teenage encounter with Jesus and, as I thought of it, the beginning of the second half of my ministry. I wanted to re-consecrate my life and ministry on the mountain where Moses met with God.

    Introductions were made, the five of us piled into a Toyota Land Cruiser, and we headed into the desert…off road. Only a Bedouin driver familiar with the Sinai wilderness could have pulled this off. It was an unbelievably rough ride and I was terribly carsick. After stopping along the way to explore the Colored Canyon and have a meal at a Bedouin camp, we reached our lodging around 10:00 p.m. We were up at 2:00 a.m. to climb the mountain. It was a short night. We were told it would take us about four hours to reach the summit, but we made it in two. So for another two hours we shivered in the dark in freezing temperatures awaiting sunrise. But the cold, dark wait was worth it. It was the most memorable sunrise of my life. We kept our appointment with God and then began our descent. By mid-morning we arrived at St. Catherine’s Monastery at the foot of the holy mountain. This monastery dating back to the fourth century is the oldest site of continuous Christian worship in the world. Orthodox monks have been praying here day and night for seventeen centuries. I wanted to join them in prayer. At first the monks refused since we were not Orthodox, but with a bit of pleading and cajoling they allowed us into the chapel where we added our voices to seventeen centuries of prayer.
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  • Revolutionary Jesus


    Revolutionary Jesus
    Brian Zahnd

    You say you want a revolution
    Well, you know, we all want to change the world

    —The Beatles

    The revolution of Christ is the radical alternative to the unimaginative politicism of the religious Right and Left.

    Jesus is not apolitical. Far from it. Jesus is intensely political! But Jesus has his own politics — and they cannot be made to serve the interests of some other political agenda. As Eugene Peterson says, “The gospel of Jesus Christ is more political than anyone imagines, but in a way that no one guesses.”

    The politics of Jesus are set forth in the Sermon on the Mount — and neither the Republican nor the Democratic party have any intention of seriously adopting those politics! They simply cannot. The politics of the Sermon on the Mount are antithetical to the political interests of a military and economic superpower.

    The problem with both the Christian Right and the Christian Left is that they reduce “Christian” to the diminished role of religious adjective in service to the all-important political noun. But as Karl Barth taught us, God cannot serve some other interest, God can only rule. …
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  • Three Books

    1887 Still Life with Three Books

    I was asked by a magazine to recommend some books. Here’s what I gave them.

    Three Books I Am Currently Recommending

    jesus-way the-doors-of-the-sea-where-was-god-in-the-tsunami-84929292 Surprised-by-Hope-1

    The Jesus Way by Eugene Peterson
    There isn’t a more important pastoral voice in America than Eugene Peterson. Though he is probably best known for his translation of The Message Bible, Eugene Peterson has authored more than forty books, most of them on the theme of what it means to be a follower of Christ in the contemporary American context. Writing from nearly fifty years of pastoral experience, The Jesus Way is perhaps the best book I’ve read on how to get beyond religious cliché and cultural assumption in considering the Christ we confess and follow. I also highly recommend Eugene Peterson’s just published memoir, The Pastor.

    The Doors of the Sea: Where Was God in the Tsunami? by David Bentley Hart
    David Bentley Hart is one of Christianity’s finest living theologians and apologists; he is a gifted writer as well. The Doors of Sea is an expansion of an essay that originally appeared in The Wall Street Journal in response to the tsunami that claimed a quarter of a million lives in Southeast Asia in December of 2004. In the wake of the tragic Japanese earthquake and tsunami, this little book has renewed relevance. The Doors of the Sea is the best attempt I’ve found in addressing the age old problem of reconciling the goodness of God with the reality of evil and suffering.

    Surprised by Hope by N.T. Wright
    I have no hesitation in asserting that N.T. Wright is the most important Christian writer, thinker, and theologian of our day. What C.S. Lewis was to a previous generation of serious Christian readers, N.T. Wright is to our generation. I’ve read nearly everything Wright has published (and he is wildly prolific!) and this is Wright at his best. Quite simply, I wish I could get every Christian to read Surprised by Hope! What is it about? It’s about the great Christian hope of resurrection and how a biblical understanding of the hope of the resurrection should inform and influence every aspect of Christian witness and mission.

    If you’re a serious Christian, do yourself a favor and read these three books.


    (The art is Still Life With Three Books by Vincent Van Gogh)

  • Mike Tyson and the Journey of Becoming

    (This post is a cut and paste from my Friday night sermon notes, but I’m sure you can piece it together.)

    It’s a fundamental mistake to think that life is about achievement and accomplishment. It’s not. Life (as our Creator intends it) is primarily about becoming. The journey through life is not primarily about where you go, or even what you do; the journey through life is mainly about what you become.

    Today I came across this in The Week:

    Mike Tyson has been humbled by life, said Ivan Solotaroff in Details. The former boxing champ—known for his savage brutality in the ring and his destructive behavior away from it—feels real remorse for the way he’s behaved over the years, from his 1992 sexual-assault conviction to biting off a chunk of another boxer’s ear in 1997. “Objectively, I’m a pig,” says Tyson. “The first stage of my life was just a whole bunch of selfishness. I thought I was a god. Now I’m 44 and I realize my whole life is just a f—ing waste.” Ruled by rage for most of his life, Tyson was finally broken last year when his 4-year-old daughter, Exodus, died after inadvertently becoming tangled in an exercise cord dangling from a treadmill. “If you’re not humble, life will visit humbleness upon you,” he says. “After I lost my daughter, all these people reached out and I realized: I just want to be of service to people. I need to help. I need to have something, finally, that I can offer to people in this world. I’m a really damaged human being and it’s still such a struggle, but I’m going to fight to the end this time. I’m just trying to be a man.”

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  • Jesus and the Victory of God

    We flew back from Israel today. During the long journey home I was reading Jesus and the Victory of God by N.T. Wright. I can’t tell you how deeply this book has thrilled my soul. It’s like a diamond mine. Every page is a gem. I am now left with no doubt that Tom Wright is the most important Christian writer and theologian of our generation. And it’s quite possible that Jesus and the Victory of God is the most important book I’ve read. It will influence me significantly.
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  • Lists

    Lists are part of my madness and my madness is a part of who I am.

    So this is a blog of lists.

    (It’s also an answer to several emailers.)

    OK, let’s go…
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