Since my last post was about Martin Luther King, this seems like as good a time as any to share some thoughts that have been building in me over the past few years. While I’m so grateful for so much of what I got to experience as a young pastor, I also understand what Ed Sheeran means with his fantastic lyric, “Have no regrets but wish I did things in a different way.” (from Tides)
For example, I learned early on that a quick shot at Eugene Peterson and The Message (his paraphrase of Scripture) in a sermon was an easy way to get a laugh and make clear that I was serious theologian. Never mind that he was a professor and, at the time, I hadn’t even been to seminary! We were Bible people and Eugene Peterson could take his watered down theology elsewhere.
What a shame.
Eugene Peterson is one of the great saints and pastors of the last 100 years. He loved Jesus, treasured Scripture, thought deeply, and served so many so well through his teaching, his writing, and his personal ministry to pastors. His books have had a profound impact on my life (go read A Long Obedience In The Same Direction) and I would love to be like him when I grow up. He lived with a grace that embodied the gospel and influenced many (after you read A Long Obedience, you can watch him talking about the psalms with Bono).
And I made fun of him to show that I was a real pastor.
Which brings me back to MLK. In school, I learned about him as a civil rights leader but in church I never learned about him as a pastor. I knew his dream moved my heart but I didn’t know just how much his dream was shaped by his faith, by my faith, by our shared faith in Jesus. It’s not that I made fun of MLK but I never would have quoted him in a sermon either. I respected Dr. King but failed to see him as Rev. King.
I was too narrow in my thinking, my reading, and my preaching. I was living in a really small corner of the church and believing the lie that we were the only ones doing it right. It wasn’t just Eugene Peterson and MLK. Catholics and Anglicans were off limits. Charismatics were to be ignored. And, God forbid, learning something from a woman.
In some ways, this is a public apology. But it’s also an invitation to read broadly, to think critically, to engage with people you don’t agree with, and to be intellectually curious. You’ll be better off and so will those you influence and serve.
Photo Credit: By Clappstar – Own work, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=73807775