One of the many joys of my Christmas morning was unwrapping a copy of Eugene Peterson’s latest theological work, Tell It Slant: A Conversation on the Language of Jesus in his Stories and Prayers. Peterson had finished his trilogy on spiritual conversations with his most excellent The Jesus Way. But apparently he needed to write one more. And God’s Church is all the better for it.
I’m halfway through this theological treatment of the parables and prayers of Jesus. Peterson examines, in the way only he can, the ways our Lord used language and conversation to reach out to others with the love and grace of God. When he spoke, people were drawn to Jesus. His words engaged the people around him. His conversations involved them. He spoke truth and grace. He encouraged and instructed. He spoke love.
I want to share with you a short passage from the introduction of Tell It Slant that challenges us in this new year to “be careful little mouth what you say.” Our tongues are powerful tools, able to heal and destroy, to comfort and enrage, to protect and attack, with a bare minimum of effort or syllables. James knew this well. So does Peterson:
“There is a lot more to speaking than getting the right words and pronouncing them correctly. Who we are and the way we speak make all the difference. We can sure think of enough creative ways to use words badly: we can blaspheme and curse, we can lie and deceive, we can bully and abuse, we can gossip and debunk. Or not. Every time we open our mouths, whether in conversation with one another or in prayer to our Lord, Christian truth and community are on the line. And so, high on the agenda of the Christian community in every generation is that we diligently develop a voice that speaks in consonance with the God who speaks, that we speak in such a way that truth is told and community is formed.”
May our words in 2009 reflect the love and the mercy of the God who saves us. May our conversations always teach and encourage. And may our language glorify God and exalt Christ Jesus.
We rang in the New Year as a church family with an evening of games and food and worship. I don’t have a lot of pictures because I was way too busy dominating Sequence (OK, Carrie-Anne dominated, I rode her coattails to impressive victory), collecting Uno word cards, getting Bear’ed and Bull’ed by Lance, and barely surviving Around the World with Sarah. I can’t imagine a better way to celebrate the gift of a new year from our God than reading together from Hebrews and Galatians and 1 John, singing songs of praise, praying together to dedicate this new year to our Lord, and then circling up to sing It Is Well as the clock struck 12:00.
Wow. God-ordained, Jesus-inspired, Spirit-powered, community-forming.
And then the sparklers.
Typical New Year’s Day at Stanglin Manor: sleep in; donuts; college football; traditional Texas New Year’s Day lunch with ham, cabbage, and black-eyed peas; college football; college football; rented movie; college football. Perfect.
My great friend Jason Reeves, the preacher at the Grayston Church in Diana, Texas and one of the Four Horsemen, has finally waved the white flag and joined the blogging community. I’m placing a link to his site, Reeves’ Rhetoric, on my blogrole on the right hand side of this page. You can also get there by clicking here.
You’ll be encouraged by Jason’s blog. God speaks through him. God will speak to you through him. He’ll challenge you. He’ll make you think. He’ll force you to re-evaluate your walk with Christ as you examine his. I know. Because most everybody I know falls way short when placed next to Jason. Especially me.
Jason, some days the blog will be an unforgiving task master. Some days it’ll take too much time. Some days it’ll seem that it’s not having as big an impact as you’d like. But those days are few and far between. You’ll discover that the blog is a wonderful way to connect to people you might not otherwise. You’ll see that it’s a great tool for reinforcing your sermons and classes. It forms Christian community. It teaches and encourages. It allows you to better articulate your thoughts and dreams while you’re wrestling with God and his Word and his world. It’s an effective way for other people to be inspired by your faith and your hope.
I pray that our Father will use your words and your thoughts to speak to the people in his Kingdom. I pray that your blog will reach people who need increased faith and stronger hope. I pray that God will be glorified in the time and effort you put into it.
And the very first time that lady from Denver with the pregnant teenager and abusive husband or that man in Arizona who’s left God’s Church calls you on the phone, from out of the blue, to tell you that your words about Habakkuk or your thoughts on 1 Thessalonians are the only thing that’s kept them going, you’ll fall on your knees in gracious humility and praise God for using you in ways far beyond what you could ever ask or imagine.