Monday, December 3, 2018

Eugene H. Peterson*

Eugene H. Peterson (1932—2018) is the author of more than thirty books, including A Long Obedience in the Same Direction, and his vernacular Bible translation The Message. Before retiring in 2006, he served as Professor of Spiritual Theology at Regent College in Vancouver.

In early October Eugene Peterson was hospitalized after “a sudden and dramatic turn in his health caused by an infection.” The hope at that time was that he might live for a few more months; he passed away on October 22nd.

He has greatly influenced millions through his books — most-famously the rock singer Bono of U2 who describes Peterson’s book about the prophet Jeremiah, Run With The Horses, as “a powerful manual for me.” Bono visited the Petersons at their isolated home in Flathead Lake, Montana in 2015, as documented in a video (produced by Fuller Theological Seminary) where he and Eugene discuss their common love of the Psalms.

I included one of Peterson's poems in the anthology The Turning Aside: The Kingdom Poets Book of Contemporary Christian Poetry. He generously wrote an endorsement for my subsequent anthology Adam, Eve, & the Riders of the Apocalypse (both of which are available here).

The following poem is from Peterson’s poetry collection Holy Luck (2013, Eerdmans).


She gave birth to her first-born son
And wrapped him in swaddling clothes,
And laid him in a manger. — Luke 2:7

For us who have only known approximate fathers
And mothers manqué, this child is a surprise:
A sudden coming true of all we hoped
Might happen. Hoarded hopes fed by prophecies,

Old sermons and song fragments now cry
Coo and gurgle in the cradle, a babbling
Proto-language which as soon as it gets
A tongue (and we, of course, grow open ears)

Will say the big nouns: joy, glory, peace;
And live the best verbs: love, forgive, save.
Along with the swaddling clothes the words are washed

Of every soiling sentiment, scrubbed clean
Of all failed promises, then hung in the world’s
Backyard dazzling white, billowing gospel.

*This is the second Kingdom Poets post about Eugene Peterson: first post.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. His latest poetry collection is Ampersand (2018, Cascade). His books are available through Amazon, and Wipf & Stock, including the anthologies The Turning Aside, and Adam, Eve, & the Riders of the Apocalypse.