WaterBrook, 372 pages
Few pastors in our time have had as much influence as Eugene Peterson, and from such an unlikely place. Peterson, who recently incurred some rare criticism for his garbled comments about marriage equality, spent 29 years with a small Maryland congregation where he was the founding pastor. Early on, he made a crucial decision to live what he describes as a congruent life, in which his words from the pulpit would match his real life. He wanted to be a human being, as well as faithful pastor. This book, a collection of sermons, displays that congruence.
He writes, “The Christian life is the lifelong practice of attending to the details of congruence – congruence between ends and means, congruence between what we do and the way we do it … the congruence of the Word made flesh in Jesus with what is lived in flesh.” The teachings in this collection are arranged in chronological order so one sees the development of Peterson’s theology alongside the pastoral concerns of the day. They retain the local character that is central to his pastoral convictions. When he struggles, he struggles with the biblical text rather than merely his own peculiar problems. This struggle for a congruent life grounded in Scripture is one familiar to most pastors. And that is why this book is worth reading by the rest of us. Even when we disagree with Peterson, we know the importance of the struggle for congruence.