badly used and abused language

The apocalyptic pastor is a poet. St. John was the first major poet of the Christian church. He used words in new ways, making (poetes in Greek is maker) truth right before our eyes, fresh in our ears. The way a pastor uses the language is a critical element in the work. The Christian gospel is rooted in language: God spoke a creation into being; our Savior was the Word made flesh. The poet is the person who uses words not primarily to convey information but to make a relationship, shape beauty, form truth. This is St. John’s work; it is every pastor’s work.

…The language of our time is in terrible condition. It is used carelessly and cynically. Mostly it is a tool for propaganda, whether secular or religious. Every time badly used and abused language is carried by pastors into prayers and preaching and direction, the word of God is cheapened. We cannot use a bad means to a good end. Words making truth, not just conveying it: liturgy and story and song and prayer are the work of pastors who are poets.

…We learn patience in the very act of reading/listening to St. John’s Apocalypse. If St. John would have been impatient, he would have given us a slogan on a decal. The reason St. John insists on patience is that he is dealing with the vast mysteries of God and the intricacies of the messy human condition. This is going to take some time. Neither the mysteries nor the mess is simple. If we are going to learn a life of holiness in the mess of history, we are going to have to prepare for something intergenerational and think in centuries.

From Eugene H. Peterson’s The Contemplative Pastor.

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