the Unpredictable Plant : An Exploration in Vocational Holiness.
Eugene H. Peterson
Rapids: Eerdmans, 1992)
I came across this book as I was preparing to preach a series on the book of Jonah. I found it very helpful and enlightening. This is the third of three books on the work of pastors. The first two books in the series are Five Smooth Stones for Pastoral Work and Working the Angles: The Shape of Pastoral Integrity.
is a book for "speeding pastors." Eugene Peterson
‘arrests’ speeding pastors and urges them to slow down, yes
indeed, to slow down and pray. But this is not a book about how
to deepen our prayer life. It
is a book about how to dive deep into prayer with our whole life.
the Unpredictable Plant is a
series of stories from the writer's life, wisdom from his ministry,
and prophetic oracles about the state of pastoral ministry today. The
book follows the story of Jonah. We are treated to witty chapter
titles, quite in keeping with the Peterson’s artistry with words:
"Buying Passage to Tarshish, Escaping the Storm, In the Belly of
the Fish, Finding the Road to Nineveh, and, Quarreling with God under
the Unpredictable Plant."
are through salient moments in the story of Jonah and along the way we
discover that this is also the story of our life! By the end of the
book, we feel quite in league with the reluctant prophet.
first chapter, "Buying Passage to Tarshish" (pp. 9-32), is
about our perverse attraction to places other than where God has
called us. Peterson combines deep insights with a wonderful way with
words. He asks (p.11): “But why would anyone flee the presence of
the Lord? The presence of the Lord is a wonderful place: an awareness
of blessing, a personal affirmation.” He went on to explain by using
the analogy to a baby gazing up into the face of his parents in
infancy: so we, early in our spiritual life adore God and are
committed to Christ. In doing so “we escape the narcissistic
isolation of gazing into our ego mirrors” (p.12). But like Jonah,
Adam & Eve, and others, “the experience of God ... is
accompanied by a temptation to reproduce the experience as God.
The taste for God is debased into a greed to be God.
Being loved by God is twisted into a lust to God-performance.... I
flee the shining face of God for a slithery world of religion that
gives me licence to manipulate people and acquire god-like attributes
to myself” (p.12)
it "is necessary from time to time that someone stand up and
attempt to get the attention of the pastors lined up at the travel
agency in Joppa to purchase a ticket to Tarshish.… what I want to
say is that the pastoral vocation is not a glamorous vocation and that
Tarshish is a lie” (p.16)
we are often convinced that the grass is greener on the Tarshish side,
our churches are a lot like Nineveh. Nineveh, Peterson writes,
"was an ancient site with layer after layer of ruined and unhappy
history. Going to Nineveh
to preach was not a coveted assignment for a Hebrew prophet with good
references. But Tarshish was something else.
Tarshish was exotic. Tarshish was adventure.
Tarshish had the appeal of the unknown furnished with baroque
details from the fantasizing imagination. Tarshish in the biblical
references was a 'far-off and sometimes idealized port'" (p.15).
does not write only of Jonah. As in his other books, he is often
refreshingly and brutally autobiographical. In chapter 2,
"Escaping the Storm,” he relates the story of himself as
a child of five or so years accompanying his evangelist mother to gospel
meetings in one-room schoolhouses in the mining and logging camps of
northwestern Montana in the late 1930s and early 1940s. She would lead
"her small congregations in country gospel songs,
religious folk ballads, and old hymns…. The lumberjacks and miners
in their clomping boots, big overalls, and flannel shirts loved it.
She sang the sentimental old songs and they wept, honking into their
red bandannas, wiping their tears without embarrassment" (p.42).
me pause at this juncture to say that as I
read this book, I got the sense that Peterson was preaching at
me. He was preaching with all his might, with no uncertain urgency,
for the revival of the pastoral ministry in our day. I must admit that
I felt called again and again, in every story he told, to recommit my
life to a ministry that is nothing but following Jesus Christ.
This is the first
of a two-part review of Peterson’s provocative book by Dr John
Lim.It is too good to lay down after one reading and we hope that you
will derive much enjoyment from this Good Book.
A Blessed Birthday to ...
Carolyn Gan 5/5
Iris Lee 5/5
Low Bee Hong 5/5
Alvin Tey 5/5
Rosalind Lee 6/5
Yeo Kim 6/5
Susan Jenkins 8/5
Daniel Jew 8/5
Atomic Leow 8/5
Emily Yap 8/5
Joshua Cheng 9/5
Marietta Randolph 9/5
Lim Hong Kian 9/5
Richard Lim 10/5
Daniel Wang 10/5
Lawrence Ng 11/5