Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Interview with Eugene Peterson

CT: You seem to have a strong sense of place, of the importance of one's location.

EP: I enjoy reading the poet-farmer Wendell Berry. He takes a small piece of land in Kentucky, respects it, cares for it, submits himself to it just as an artist submits himself to his materials. I read Berry, and every time he speaks of "farm" and "land" I insert "parish." . . . The pastor's question is, "Who are these particular people, and how can I be with them in such a way that they can become what God is making them?" My job is simply to be there, teaching, preaching Scripture as well as I can, and being honest with them, not doing anything to interfere with what the Spirit is shaping in them.

CT: What does it mean to experience all the material of our lives as an act of faith?

EP: That I'm responsible for paying attention to the Word of God right here in this locale. The assumption of spirituality is that always God is doing something before I know it. So the task is not to get God to do something I think needs to be done, but to become aware of what God is doing so that I can respond to it and participate and take delight in it.

CT: As a pastor, then, you see grace in some unlikely situations.

EP: Yes, and my job is not to solve people's problems or make them happy, but to help them to see the grace that is operating in their lives. It's hard to do, because our whole culture is going the other direction, saying that if you're smart enough and get the right kind of help, you can solve all your problems. . . . The work of spirituality is to recognize where we are -- the particular circumstances of our lives -- to recognize grace and say, "Do you suppose God wants to be with me in a way that does not involve changing my spouse or getting rid of my spouse or my kids, but in changing me, and doing something in my life that maybe I could never experience without this pain and this suffering?"

Christianity Today, 3 April 1987, pages 25-26.