Passing the faith along


A man who has profoundly encouraged me through his books for more than 3 decades is getting ready to ‘go home.’ Eugene Peterson, 85, entered hospice care this past weekend, recognizing that he is in the last lap here. He is best known for his paraphrase of the Scripture, The Message, often quoted in this blog.  Peterson was the founding pastor of Bel Air Presbyterian Church in Maryland. He is a pastor’s pastor!  He does not know me and I have only known him from afar yet my heart is sad at the news that he will soon leave us.  I highly recommend one of his earlier books, A Long Obedience in the Same Direction, based on the Psalms of Ascent that encourages faithfulness in the pilgrimage that is the Christian life.

Peterson had little time for the Church as ‘business,’ and the pressure that is often placed on pastors to grow ‘’big” ministries that cater to the culture. He invited us to lives of prayer and contemplation, to reflection on the Word, and to model the life we preach. An article written about him several years noted this of his work as a teacher in the last 20 years, a man “who aims to keep Christian leaders grounded in robust biblical theology amid the din of shallow preaching aimed at self-improvement and megachurch marketing campaigns to “do more.” He was never content simply to look good or to say the right words. Peterson worked ‘to be’ the Christian he believed God desired him to be.

Most of you who are reading this blog (if you’re still reading) do not even know his name, and yet he has touched your life through me.  I am, in part at least, who I am because of who he is.  If I am being the faithful shepherd Christ Jesus desires, you are, in part who you are, as a result of my influence in your life. This handing off of the faith, one generation to another, is as it should be.

I want to ask you an important question. Are you intentionally passing the Faith along, living an authentic Christianity that invites your family, your children, your friends to walk with you to discover the Person and purposes of the Lord?  “Listen, dear friends, to God’s truth, bend your ears to what I tell you. I’m chewing on the morsel of a proverb; I’ll let you in on the sweet old truths, Stories we heard from our fathers, counsel we learned at our mother’s knee. We’re not keeping this to ourselves, we’re passing it along to the next generation— God’s fame and fortune, the marvelous things he has done.” (Psalm 78:1-4, The Message)

There is an apt metaphor for this transfer. In a relay race each person carries the baton for one lap. The critical moment is the hand-off. The outgoing runner does not look backwards, even as she extends her hand to receive the baton from the one coming at full speed towards her. It is the responsibility of the incoming runner to set that baton into the outstretched hand and not let go until the outgoing runner takes hold of it. The baton must not be dropped!

It should sober us and cause us to evaluate the ways we are investing our time and resources. Lord, help us to understand that most of what we do in our lives will be forgotten, or even done better by someone who comes after us. Records are made to fall. Achievements are usually eclipsed by those of the next generation.  However, when we disciple someone, when we pass the faith along, we do something that time does not erase, that lasts beyond our lifetime.  Eugene Peterson handed me some tools of for my faith.  I have handed those tools to you. And, that pleases our Father and changes destinies.

One of these days, you and I will be entering the last lap. What will be the musings of those who knew us? Will they give thanks for our love, for our faithfulness, for the way that we showed them a Way to find ‘life eternal’ in Christ Jesus?    My brother, Eugene Peterson, I pray for you as you approach the Gates of Glory. What a moment when you step from time to eternity, when your Savior welcomes you HOME!  I so look forward to not needing to say, “so long” to anyone ever again. But until then, I’ll keep running. How about you?

Here’s a word from the Word. “But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. We have come to share in Christ if we hold firmly till the end the confidence we had at first.” (Hebrews 3:13-14, NIV)


Watching You
(A country song by Rodney Atkins)

Driving through town, just my boy and me
With a happy meal in his booster seat
Knowing that he couldn’t have the toy
Till his nuggets were gone
A green traffic light turned straight to red
I hit my brakes and mumbled under my breath
As fries went a flying and his orange drink covered his lap

Well, then my four year old said a four letter word
That started with “s, ” and I was concerned
So I said, “Son, now where did you learn to talk like that?”
He said, “I’ve been watching you, dad, ain’t that cool?
I’m your buckaroo, I wanna be like you
And eat all my food, and grow as tall as you are
We got cowboy boots and camo pants
Yeah, we’re just alike, hey, ain’t we dad?
I wanna do everything you do
So I’ve been watching you.”

We got back home, and I went to the barn
I bowed my head, and I prayed real hard
Said, “Lord, please help me help my stupid self.”
Then this side of bedtime later that night
Turning on my son’s Scooby Doo night light
He crawled out of bed, and he got down on his knees
He closed his little eyes, folded his little hands
And spoke to God like he was talking to a friend
And I said, “Son, now where’d you learn to pray like that?”

He said, “I’ve been watching you, dad, ain’t that cool?
I’m your buckaroo, I wanna be like you
And eat all my food, and grow as tall as you are
We like fixing things and holding mama’s hand
Yeah, we’re just alike, hey, ain’t we, dad?
I wanna do everything you do
So I’ve been watching you.”

With tears in my eyes, I wrapped him in a hug
Said, “My little bear is growing up.”
He said, “But when I’m big, I’ll still know what to do.”
“‘Cause I’ve been watching you, dad, ain’t that cool?
I’m your buckaroo, I wanna be like you
And eat all my food, and grow as tall as you are
Then I’ll be as strong as Superman
We’ll be just alike, hey, won’t we, dad?
When I can do everything you do
‘Cause I’ve been watching you.”

Songwriters: Teddy Natalia Noemi Sinclair / Emile Haynie / Jeffrey Bhasker
Watching You lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group

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