One of my goals is to unleash the word of God. I think more than anything else this is my desire for my ministry – at least as I am able to articulate it right now. I fear that we have domesticated the word of God. I hear lots of people talking about the Bible, but I don’t hear near as much that is Biblical or from the Bible.
I have said to some friends recently something like this, “I want to do in my preaching what Eugene Peterson has done in the Message.” After having said that, I read the preface in the Message. In it Peterson says that anything unique about the Message came about because it was written by a working pastor: “The Message grew from the soil of forty years of pastoral work.” Peterson says specifically in his Introduction to the New Testament in the Message:
“The goal is not to render a word-for-word conversion of Greek into English, but rather to convert the tone, the rhythm, the events, the ideas, into the way we actually think and speak. In the midst of doing this work, I realized that this is exactly what I have been doing all my vocational life. For thirty-five years as a pastor I stood at the border between two languages, biblical Greek and everyday English , acting as a translator, providing the right phrases, getting the right words so that the men and women to whom I was pastor could find their way around and get along in theirs world where God has spoken so decisively and clearly in Jesus. I did it from the pulpit and in the kitchen, in hospitals and restaurants, on parking lots and at picnics, always looking for an English way to make the biblical text relevant to the conditions of the people.” [Emphasis mine]
This is something I have only begun to chew on and something that I will surely chew like a cow with its cud for a long time yet to come: the pastor as translator. Whether you know Biblical Greek or not. If you are a pastor, you are a translator. We are standing at the border between two languages. We are standing at the border between two texts and two contexts.
The fact that this marvelous translation grew directly from his pastoral ministry and attempts to get the people to experience the word of God gives me hope that maybe as a disciple of Peterson I can get the word heard in a similar fashion. This is really what’s at the heart of txt&contxt. This is my hope for ministry: to unleash the word of God. Here is a prayer that I have prayed in bits and pieces at various parts of my ministry so far. This is the first time I have attempted to put it all together.
A Prayer for Unleashing the Word of God
Oh Word of God, meet us in the words of God
As we open our Bibles, open also: our hearts, our heads, and our hands.
As we read the text let us also be read by the text. Amen.