As Kingfishers Catch Fire: A Conversation on the Ways of God Formed by the Words of God
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As Kingfishers Catch Fire: A Conversation on the Ways of God Formed by the Words of God

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"Sixty years ago I found myself distracted," Eugene Peterson writes. "A chasm had developed between the way I was preaching from the pulpit and my deepest convictions on what it meant to be a pastor."

And so began Peterson's journey to live and teach a life of congruence—congruence between preaching and living, between what we do and the way we do it, between what is written in Scripture and how we live out that truth.

As Kingfishers Catch Fire invites readers to draw closer to Christ and discover not only how to be a pastor, but also how to be a human being through the compelling life and words of a remarkable man. In this never-before-published collection of work, author, pastor, theologian, poet, and fellow pilgrim Eugene Peterson illuminates both the text and the world of Scripture as he guides readers alongside Moses, Isaiah, Solomon, Peter, Paul, John, and other flawed but faithful God-followers in order to discover how to live out the good news of the Word made flesh.

In As Kingfishers Catch Fire Peterson combines strikingly beautiful prose and deeply grounded insights to develop a coherent and connected biblical imagination that invites readers into a richer, truer, and more vibrant spirituality in the Christ way.

Product Information

Format: Hardcover
Number of Pages: 400
Vendor: WaterBrook
Publication Date: 2017
Dimensions: 9.00 X 6.00 (inches)
ISBN: 1601429673
ISBN-13: 9781601429674

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Author Bio

Eugene H. Peterson, translator of The Message: The Bible in Contemporary Language, is professor emeritus of spiritual theology at Regent College, British Columbia, and the author of more than thirty books. He earned his master’s degree in Semitic languages from Johns Hopkins University. He also holds several honorary doctoral degrees. In 1962, Peterson was the founding pastor of Christ Our King Presbyterian Church in Bel Air, Maryland, where he served for twenty-nine years before retiring in 1991. He and his wife, Jan, live in Montana.

Endorsements

"As Kingfishers Catch Fire covers it all, the A to Z of Christian spirituality. It is filled with the kind of wisdom that can only come from long obedience in the same direction! It's more than a book; it's a gift. Thank you, Eugene!" - MARK BATTERSON, New York Times best-selling author of The Circle Maker and lead pastor of National Community Church, Washington, DC

"There is no one who has done more to shape my 'pastoral imagination' than Eugene Peterson. Now, through this extraordinary collection, we see how words become pastoral work. An exegete and a poet, Peterson opens up to us not only the text but its world, welcoming us to walk with Moses, David, Isaiah, Solomon, Peter, Paul, and John. And as we do, we find ourselves keeping company with Jesus. Read it devotionally; read it as a study in sacred storytelling; read it to come alive along the Jesus Way." - GLENN PACKIAM, associate senior pastor, New Life Church, Colorado Springs

"I can hear Eugene Peterson's warm and gravelly voice in each well-crafted chapter of As Kingfishers Catch Fire. I wish I could have been in a pew listening to the Word spoken for a particular time, place, and people, but reading this collection is the next best thing. Peterson's attention to biblical texts, theological concerns, and earthy applications for real people are the same threads we find in his many books. Reading just the introduction to each section is time well spent, but I promise you won't stop there." - DAN BAUMGARTNER, senior pastor, First Presbyterian Church of Hollywood

Editorial Reviews

"As Kingfishers Catch Fire covers it all, the A to Z of Christian spirituality. It is filled with the kind of wisdom that can only come from long obedience in the same direction! It’s more than a book; it’s a gift. Thank you, Eugene!"
—Mark Batterson, New York Times best-selling author of The Circle Maker and lead pastor of National Community Church, Washington, DC

"There is no one who has done more to shape my ’pastoral imagination’ than Eugene Peterson. Now, through this extraordinary collection, we see how words become pastoral work. An exegete and a poet, Peterson opens up to us not only the text but its world, welcoming us to walk with Moses, David, Isaiah, Solomon, Peter, Paul, and John. And as we do, we find ourselves keeping company with Jesus. Read it devotionally; read it as a study in sacred storytelling; read it to come alive along the Jesus Way."
—Glenn Packiam, associate senior pastor, New Life Church, Colorado Springs

"Eugene Peterson is brilliant and the gift he has given the church is huge. This is a man who has the mind of a scholar paired with the heart of a grace-filled pastor. The main thing is that he loves God’s word and that is so apparent in every word that he writes."
—Liz Curtis Higgs, best-selling author of "The Women of Easter" and Bad Girls of the Bible series

"I can hear Eugene Peterson’s warm and gravelly voice in each well-crafted chapter of As Kingfishers Catch Fire. I wish I could have been in a pew listening to the Word spoken for a particular time, place, and people, but reading this collection is the next best thing. Peterson’s attention to biblical texts, theological concerns, and earthy applications for real people are the same threads we find in his many books. Reading just the introduction to each section is time well spent, but I promise you won’t stop there."
—Dan Baumgartner, senior pastor, First Presbyterian Church of Hollywood

"As Kingfishers Catch Fire is a collection of 49 sermons Peterson first preached at Christ Our King Presbyterian Church during nearly 30 years of ministry there (1962–1991). The sermons are divided into seven groups, each grouped together with the formula, "Preaching in the Company of ," where the fill-in-the-blank is Moses (the Law), David (Psalms), Isaiah (the Prophets), Solomon (Wisdom literature), Peter (the Gospels), Paul (the Epistles), and John (the Johannine literature). Throughout, Peterson strives to "enter into the biblical company of prototypical preachers and work out of the traditions they had developed under the guidance of the Holy Spirit." The result is a master class in what Scripture says about the pastoral care of souls. Peterson eschews the notions that spirituality can be pursued apart from everyday life or that it can be sought without the company of others. Instead, as he writes in a characteristic passage:

"It is somewhat common among people who get interested in religion or God to get proportionately disinterested in their jobs and families, their communities and their colleagues. The more of God, the less of the human. But that is not the way God intends it. Wisdom [literature] counters this tendency by giving witness to the precious nature of human experience in all its forms, whether or not it feels or appears ’spiritual’" (emphasis in original). This isn’t to deny that spiritual disciplines such as prayer, Scripture reading, and corporate worship are vital. But, Peterson is saying, unless those disciplines make us better workers, family members, neighbors and friends, we haven’t yet achieved the congruence of life to which Scripture bears witness: persons who act in God’s eye what in God’s eye we are, that is, "Christ who lives in [us]" (Gal. 2:20).

This is not a book I would recommend to some pastors. For example, if you’re looking for a book that gives you a fool-proof three-step process to
_ (whatever it is that you’re trying to do), skip this one. Or if you’re looking on Saturday night for a three-point sermon you can preach the next morning, don’t read this. Peterson’s sermons are ongoing conversations, not plug-and-play outlines. However, if you’re tossed about by the winds of the times or you’re tired of slapping Bible verses on business principles or if your ministry lacks congruence between the means of discipleship and the ends of Christlikeness, please read this book. It will feed your soul, and through you, the souls of your congregation. Then read it again."  
—George O. Wood, Influence Magazine

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  1. contemplativereflections
    4 Stars Out Of 5
    Book Review: As Kingfishers Catch Fire
    June 9, 2017
    contemplativereflections
    Quality: 0
    Value: 0
    Meets Expectations: 0
    In "As Kingfishers Catch Fire," Eugene Peterson hopes to help us achieve greater congruence between what is preached on Sunday and how we live our lives on the other six days. The book is a collection of sermons preached over a span of nearly three decades while Peterson was pastor of his congregation in Maryland. The sermons are grouped into seven parts that focus on the biblical books written by Moses, David, Isaiah, Solomon, Peter, Paul, and John. Peterson emphasizes repeatedly that we need to look intentionally beneath the superficial realities of our daily work, routines, and tasks to perceive how God is using the most minute details to transform us into the image of Christ. Although the text and message of each sermon is unique, the underlying theme focuses on how the creative, powerful Word of God opens our eyes to see how God moves in and through our lives. Furthermore, we are not merely audience members watching His grand narrative unfold but active participants in joining God as He transforms, recreates, and renews all things through His Son. Instead of passively receiving God's Word in the pews, the author invites us to use Scripture as the prism by which we can see life properly in God's perspective. Even though these are past sermons that include dated references and allusions, the keen observations and applications are just as relevant to Christians today.

    I would recommend this book to those who struggle to link the glorious truths of God's Word to the ordinariness of our daily lives. We often succumb to the temptation to divorce what goes on during Sunday mornings with the activities in the rest of our lives. As such, we fail to realize the power of the Bible and how its truths enliven us to experience the beauty and joy of following Jesus. Peterson urges us to allow our worship, may it be through song, word, and sacrament, to infiltrate every part of our daily thought, word, and deed. As a seasoned pastor and scholar, Peterson masterfully identifies the crucial linkages between Scripture and life enabling us to see how even the arduous tasks we face each day can become opportunities to taste and see the grace and love of God.

    In compliance with Federal Trade Commission guidelines, I received a review copy from The Crown Publishing Group in exchange for a book review.
  2. Michele Morin
    Warren, Maine
    Age: 45-54
    Gender: female
    5 Stars Out Of 5
    Attending to the Details of Congruence
    May 11, 2017
    Michele Morin
    Warren, Maine
    Age: 45-54
    Gender: female
    Quality: 5
    Value: 5
    Meets Expectations: 5
    No one has to remind the forsythia bush outside my dining room window to break forth into yellow luminescence as an announcement that spring has come. The sassy gray squirrel steals shamelessly from the bird feeder according to his kind, and the chickadee scolds and stitches up the air behind her because that is what chickadees do. Of all Gods creation, it is only humanity that struggles toward congruence of our inside with our outside, of our calling and our walking. Gerard Manley Hopkins captures the beautiful true-to-essence behaviors of stones and dragonflies, of violin strings and bells in his classic poem As Kingfishers Catch Fire and nodding in agreement with his conclusion, Eugene Peterson has borrowed the title for his 2017 compilation of sermons taken from 29 years of preaching from a pulpit in Maryland.

    Peterson concludes that part of spiritual formation is living into this congruence between the means by which we live and the ends for which we live. For humans, this is not a mindless outcome of biology and physics, but rather a living out of the Christ life, one glorious manifestation of Hopkins ten thousand places in which Christ plays.

    This witness from a poem along with his realization that there was a disconnect between his preaching and his deepest convictions of what he should be doing as a pastor marked the beginning of a new way of viewing ministry for Eugene Peterson. He began to see his congregation just as they were, not how [he] wanted them to be. He stopped viewing them as either problems to be fixed or resources to be exploited. The new collaborative relationship, in worship and in life, is reflected in this collection of forty-nine sermons arranged in seven sections:

    Part 1: Preaching in the Company of Moses

    Although Peterson addresses his introductory material to those who preach for a living, those of us who teach or write (for a life) will be enriched by insights like this:

    Is it possible to take the Torah apart historically and then put it back together again as a book of faith with theological and literary integrity? I think it is. It is not only possible but worth any effort it might take. (6)

    With that in mind, the seven sermons in this section are designed to nourish the storytelling imagination (7) through stories in Genesis that reveal the nature and character of God. Abraham, the friend of God; Moses, the signpost pointing to Christ; and a stunning analysis of Leviticus 19:18 that takes the focus off the law and the lists and puts it on love: the primary verb in our Scriptures. (37)

    Part 2: Preaching in the Company of David

    Sermons based on the Bibles prayer book, the Psalms, drive home the truth that prayer is an act of attention. Reading through the Old Testament right now with my patient husband, we are hopping back and forth between David-on-the-run and David the lyricist. Since everything that happened in Davids life became prayer, I am encouraged to let my own context flow seamlessly into conversation with God. Seven sermons from the Psalms bridge Old and New Testaments with surprising connections that encourage me to look for ways in which my own story is woven around and through listening prayer.

    Part 3: Preaching in the Company of Isaiah

    I saved this chapter for last (like dessert) because Isaiah is my favorite prophet, and I was not disappointed. The jarring realism of the prophetic word gets ample play in Petersons analysis:

    Prophets insist that God is the sovereign center, not off in the wings awaiting our beck and call. And prophets insist that we deal with God as God reveals himself, not as we imagine him to be.

    A right reading of the prophets protects us from dividing the secular from the sacred, setting off a safe place for a tame God to act, and then tending to our own business in the real life category. Prophets will have none of this. Everything is Gods, and the flood of His holiness knocks down the dividing walls and brings everything under His scrutiny and jurisdiction.

    Part 4: Preaching in the Company of Solomon

    I doubt if Ive heard seven sermons in my whole life taken from Old Testament Wisdom literature, so Im in dire need of the enhanced quotidian imagination Peterson writes of: an imagination soaked in the ordinary, the everyday. With characteristic clarity, Peterson notes a polarity among these books in which the Song of Solomon and Job contrast ecstasy with devastation while the Proverbs and Ecclesiastes contrast the sacredness of the everyday round with the determination to persevere in spite of the mundane details.

    In these books, human experience as the arena in which God is present and working is placed front and center.

    Part 5: Preaching in the Company of Peter

    In addition to his letters, Peters voice vibrates behind Marks in the second gospel. With this in mind, the incarnational storytelling of the New Testament takes on an electrical quality. Peters confession that Jesus is the Christ arises from three years of intimate research, meals on the road, sharing of daily space. While we may struggle to embrace the human side of the Jesus portrayed in the Gospels, Peter would have had no doubt.

    When he made his insightful statement that Jesus is the Christ, what Peter was really saying was this: You are God among us. And no sooner had he come to this elaborate conclusion, but God the Son began the process of introducing the notion that He would die. Nowhere else do we witness this degree of conceptual whiplash between the idea of Jesus as God through and through and human through and through.

    Petersons inclusion of his sermon on the manure story feels almost like bonus content, for it presents a four verse parable about an unproductive fig tree as an invitation to join God in the slow (and sometimes messy) solution to a presenting problem: Be quiet in the presence of death while waiting for new life to emerge.

    Part 6: Preaching in the Company of Paul

    Prolific Paul is described as the gold standard in the world of theology, and Peterson dips his brush into seven of Pauls letters to illustrate four elements of Pauls theological imagination:

    His submission to Scripture Paul is not an independent thinker figuring things out on his own. . . As he writes his letters, Pauls mind is entirely harnessed to Scripture. (269)

    His extravagant embrace of mystery There is a kind of mind, too common among us, that is impatient of mystery. We want to know what is going on. But such impatience short-circuits maturity. (271)

    His use of language Ivory tower intellectuals and rubber-hits-the-road pragmatists like things organized and orderly. That is not the kind of language we find in Paul. Paul uses words not to define but to evoke. (272)

    His words came to us through letters in accessible terms Theology is not talking about God but living in community with persons in relationships . . . [Pauls} theology was written in community with a host of people in the context of living out the faith. (273)

    Part 7: Preaching in the Company of John of Patmos

    Johns writing emphasizes Jesus conversations and His prayers. As a lover of the Word, Peterson throws the spotlight on Johns easy familiarity with the Old Testament: in Revelations 404 verses, there are 518 references to earlier scriptures. John wrote in three different genres, but all with the heart and soul of a pastor, communicating in love to a group of believers. Perhaps it is for this reason that Eugene Petersons pastoral heart is apparent in this final section:

    As it turns out, in this business of living the Christian life, one of the most neglected aspects in reading the Scriptures is reading them formatively and imaginatively, reading in order to live.

    Worship God. . . Worship gathers everything in our common lives that has been dispersed by sin and brings it to attention before God.

    As Kingfishers Catch Fire captures the heart and wisdom of a pastor with a sense of calling and a deep knowledge of Scripture.

    With an overwhelming volume of content available online and so many new books being published every month, these kingfisher sermons stand by themselves in their timeless application of Scriptural truth to boots-on-the- ground living. I cant think of a thing on Netflix or anywhere else that I would bother to binge watch, but I most heartily enjoyed (and highly recommend) the binge-reading of Eugene Petersons sermons.

    //

    This book was provided by Waterbrook, a division of Penguin Random House via Blogging for Books in exchange for my review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commissions 16 CFR, Part 255 : Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.
  3. Janet
    Belton, TX
    Age: 45-54
    Gender: Female
    5 Stars Out Of 5
    For Building Your Life on the Foundation of God's Word
    April 15, 2017
    Janet
    Belton, TX
    Age: 45-54
    Gender: Female
    Quality: 5
    Value: 5
    Meets Expectations: 5
    I was so excited when Waterbrook Multnomah Publishers offered me this newest book by Eugene Peterson for review. I've read several of his books and always appreciate his fresh insights into God's Word.

    I was especially delighted when I realized he wrote this book for those who preach and teach God's Word. In the introduction he explains, "When I prepare and preach a sermon, I need constant reminding that I am part of a company that has a rich and varied genealogy. I do not start from scratch. I do not make up something new." What he does, and what he's teaching his readers to do is "to enter into the biblical company of prototypical preachers and work out of the traditions they had developed under the guidance of the Holy Spirit."

    As Kingfishers Catch Fire is a compilation of Peterson's sermons exploring the messages of seven biblical preachers: Moses, David, Isaiah, Solomon, Peter, Paul, and John of Patmos. For each of these men, he gives his readers an introduction and seven sermons. And as he does so, he reveals his own personal journey of learning to live the ways of God by studying His Word.

    I recommend this book to anyone wishing to build on the foundation of God's Word in their own life.
  4. Treenz
    5 Stars Out Of 5
    Thoughtful, inspirational and easy to read
    April 3, 2017
    Treenz
    Quality: 5
    Value: 5
    Meets Expectations: 5
    Some of you may be familiar with the name Eugene H. Peterson for the same reason I was, he was the translator of The Message Bible. I picked up this book for that reason, and also due to it's interesting title and cover design. This book is a collection of teachings from Eugene during his 29 years as a pastor in a church in Maryland. Very firmly grounded in scripture each one is a few pages long on average.

    I really enjoyed how he brought the scriptures to life and applied them specifically for the listener so practically. For example on page 35 he begins by asking the reader if they have ever made a resolution to read the Bible in a year? He goes on to say that more often than not it is Leviticus that gets people stalled as they try to wade through it. His advice is skip it and onto Numbers but first read Leviticus 19v18 'Love your neighbor as yourself' and explains how that is the first time the word 'love' as a verb occurs in the Bible. He continues on in that chapter speaking about loving your neighbor as yourself.

    I like the style of writing - it is easy to read and like he is just speaking it.

    Eugene's biggest goal in his teaching and lifestyle was congruence - which is living out what you believe and being consistent in what you say and do. The insights he presents in this book are timeless and priceless. Another example on page 241 where he discusses the American dream of the pursuit of happiness and how different the road to happiness is when it's done God's way, referring to the beatitudes i.e. poor in spirit, those who mourn, the meek etc. God gives us a precise description on how to be happy there.

    This is the kind of book I think I could get more out of it the more I read it. A lot of depth and thought provoking contemplations are presented around the scriptures and living a Godly life. I love thinking about things like this deeply and really assessing my own life. I would definitely recommend this book.

    Please note that I was sent an uncorrected proof edition of this book from the publisher in exchange for my review. All opinions expressed are entirely my own.
  5. Michael
    Indian Trail, NC
    Age: 45-54
    Gender: male
    4 Stars Out Of 5
    As Kingfishers Catch Fire
    March 28, 2017
    Michael
    Indian Trail, NC
    Age: 45-54
    Gender: male
    Quality: 4
    Value: 4
    Meets Expectations: 4
    "As Kingfishers Catch Fire" by Eugene Peterson is a deep and thought-provoking title on the author's experiences as a pastor and the ways of God. Almost 400 pages, the book is a lengthy read and is organized into seven areas based on biblical characters:

    Moses - how God works in our lives through stories and signposts.

    David - using the Psalms for learning more about God and moral conduct.

    Isaiah - how the prophets point us to God and challenge us to realize that God wants to set our lives right and to hope in our future based in Him.

    Solomon - how God's wisdom works in human experience.

    Peter - attentiveness and responding to God as He reveals Himself to us through Jesus Christ.

    Paul - submitting to scripture, embracing mystery, using language, and reading the letters he wrote to people in churches that still exist from biblical times.

    Apostle John - having a pastoral concern for people.

    The book is readable and smoothly transitions from topic to topic. I have read some other titles by Peterson and this book is consistent with his writing style - down to earth and makes you think about what is being written. Good read and will go through again in the future.

    I was given a review copy by Blogging For Books in exchange for a fair and honest review.
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