Monday, May 17, 2010

Telling it Slant

I'm finished the second book.

A while ago I committed myself to reading Eugene Peterson's colossal five volume spiritual theology series. Tonight I finished Tell it Slant: a conversation on the language of Jesus in his stories and prayers.

Two pages from the end my mind flipped back to my weekend experience. Here's what happened.

As many of you know it's unusual for me to sit in an unfamiliar pew but I've been on holidays. I embraced the rare opportunity to visit a small, rural church. As the pastor rose to speak, I prepared myself for a barrage of local jargon and inside jokes. To my surprise, the dialect was formal, religious and propped up by cliches like, "entering the waters of baptism" and "extending the right hand of fellowship". Now, I've been to Bible College and Seminary. I have a pretty good grasp on church words. But, after reflection, I still don't know what "the right hand of fellowship" means.

Here's a secret: I've been there. I sometimes use religious cliches when I haven't adequately prepared and I want to say the right things. I've even apologized to a worship team after bowing with them and proceeding to string together cliche after cliche to form a fine sounding prayer. We don't use religious jargon while barbecuing or picking up packages at the post office, so why do we use it on Sunday mornings?

Two pages from the end of Tell it Slant Peterson writes, "I want to eliminate the bilingualism that we either grow up with or acquire along the way of growing up: one language for talking about God and the things of God, salvation, and Jesus, singing hymns and going to church; another language we become proficient in as we attend school, get jobs, play ball, go to dances, and buy potatoes and blue jeans. One language for religion and another for everything else, each with its own vocabulary and tone of voice. I want to break down the walls of partition that separate matters of God and prayer from matters of getting food on the table and making a living." (Peterson, Tell it Slant, 267.)

I'm with Eugene Peterson on this one.


Erika said...

And I'm with Jason Mills and Eugene Peterson on this one. Keep it away!!

Luke said...


Also, I think you do a great job of this already. Which is why people want to listen to you in the first place, rather then just being there because they feel obligated.

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