We Must Not Only Eat the Book-But Put Voice To It
Hello and Merry Christmas to all of you. As we close out this year I wanted to take a moment and share some of my favorite quotes from one of my favorite authors-Eugene Peterson. The quotes below are from, “Eat the Book.”
In the months and years ahead will need to have this book written on our hearts like never before so our hearts wont fail us.
I pray the insights from this book help you as you determine to allow God to form you spiritually from the inside out- as you eat this book-The Holy Bible.
And I pray these insights bless and grow you in wisdom as much as they have me.
The Holy Community at Table with Holy Scripture:
The Christian Scriptures are the primary text for Christian spirituality. Christian spirituality is, in it’s entirety, rooted in and shaped by the scriptural text. We don’t form our personal spiritual lives out of a random assemblage of favorite texts in combination with individual circumstances; we are formed by the Holy Spirit in accordance with the text of Holy Scripture. God does not put us in charge of forming our personal spiritualites. We grow in accordance with the revealed Word inplanted in us by the Spirit.
The commanding presence of Holy Scripture as the formative text for the Christian has never gone unchallenged. Through the centuries people have found that they preferred other ways of going about this business of finding direction and guidance for living the Christian life. But the church community has consistently said “no“ to them and kept a firm grip on this text, this authoritative Bible.
We have said “no,” for instance, to working ourselves up into visionary states of ecstasy in order to get in touch with God. Heightened emotional states are very attractive, particularly to adolescence. There is such a thrilling sense of immediacy to it; it feels so, well, authentic, so alive. The generic designation “enthusiasm“ has been attached to this weight of the soul that has attracted and continues to attract so many off on detours of self gratification and into addictive cul-de-sacs. The wisest teachers have always steered us away from them.
We say “no“ to understanding Herculean tasks of moral heroism in order to call up and display the divine potentialities within us. The challenge of heroics, especially moral heroics, pumps adrenaline into our bloodstream and frees us from the neighborhood mediocrities that mire us in the mud of the common place.
We say “no“ to going off to a mountain cave and emptying ourselves of all thought, feeling, and desire so that there is nothing left in us to separate us from immediate access to reality. There is nothing so pure, so simple, so uncluttered about it.
The Zen koan displaces Christian Scripture.
But the text that seems to be most in favor of the American landscape today is the sovereign self. A friend told me recently of an acquaintance, a life-long reader of the Bible who realized one day that his life was not turning out as he thought the Bible said it would.
He decided then and there, in his words, to “make my life my authority instead of the Bible.”
Most of our culture, both secular and religious, supports this man’s decision. It has become characteristic of our contemporary spirituality and its various manifestations to take the sovereign self as text.
But the results are not encouraging: the groundswell of interest in spirituality as this new millennium has opened up does not seem to be producing any discernible outpouring of energetic justice and faithful love, two of the more obvious accompaniments of a healthy and Holy Christian life. In fact, we have arrived at a point now when the term spirituality is more apt to call to mind dabblers in transcendence rather than lives of rigor, exuberance, goodness and justice-the kinds of lives historically associated with this word.
In contrast to the self-serving and glamorous spiritualities, ours is a pedestrian way, literally pedestrian: we put one foot in front of the other as we follow Jesus. And in order to know who he is, where he is going, and how to walk on his steps, we reach for a book, THE book and read it.
As you recall, the Apostle John was impressed when he heard the apocalyptic strong angel. It was like thunder in his ears. He grabbed his notebook and pencil and started to write down what he just heard. A voice from heaven told him not to write what he had heard but to take the book and “eat it.”
The words in the book had just been re-voiced, taken off the page and set in motion in the air where they could enter ears. When John started to write the message he had heard, the rolling thunder of those sentences reverberating through land and sea, and write it down, he was stopped short-why, that would be like taking the wind out of the words and flattening them soundless on paper.
The preaching angel had just gotten them off the printed page, and now John was going to put them back again. No, said they heavenly voice-I want those words out there, creating sound waves, entering ears, entering lives. I want those words preached, song, taught, prayed-lived.
The voice then tells John to take the book from the angel. He takes it and the angel tells him, “eat this book.”get this book into your gut; get the words of this book moving through your bloodstream; chew on these words and swallow them so they can be turned into muscle and gristle and bone.
And he did it; he ate the book.
I’m using this metaphor “eat this book“ as a way of focusing on clarifying what it means to have these Holy Scriptures and how the Holy community has learned to eat them, receive them in a way that forms us into Christians, men and women created and saved and blessed by God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.
I want to observe the way in which these personal words arrive in our lives and connect the Jesus way with the way in which we now live them. I want to attend to the way that the form of scripture is also the form of our lives.
Amen and amen,