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

WaterBrook / 2017 / Hardcover

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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

"Unlike many sermons that barely make it out of the pulpit, Peterson’s soar out and draw in throughout this fantastic book. His words, written for speaking, are sure, intimate, and trustworthy. Peterson (The Message) admits that preaching is a "corporate act" that requires a congregation in common worship. For 29 years, he preached at the church he founded, Christ Our King Presbyterian Church in Bel Air, Md., and this anthology of sermons welcomes readers to join that company. He intends these 49 sermons, undated but for one, to be used in conjunction with communion. Following his gracefully instructive introductions to each chapter, Peterson preaches "in the company" of Moses, David, Isaiah, Solomon, Peter, Paul, and John of Patmos. What he says about Paul applies to him, too: he’s "totally at ease in this richly expansive narrative of God’s Word." Peterson mixes storytelling with exegeses, the rare sermon (on Psalm 110) with the annual, history with geography, language lessons with a skosh of mathematics, and wisdom with wit—all in tuneful, God-fed language. 
—Publishers Weekly

"For nearly three decades, members of Christ Our King Presbyterian Church in Bel Air, Md., enjoyed a rare privilege. Week by week, they listened to wordsmith Eugene Peterson preach. Over his 29 years as the congregation’s founding pastor, those worshippers undoubtedly heard some of the most skillfully crafted sermons delivered in the past generation. In the process, they learned what God had to say to them as a specific group of Christ-followers in their unique context. Peterson has described the sermons as a collaborative effort—an ongoing conversation between the pastor and his people, as they collectively listened for a word from God.

Those of us who did not have the opportunity to hear the sermons delivered now have access to the next-best thing. As Kingfishers Catch Fire collects 49 sermons—seven each grouped under the names of Moses, David, Isaiah, Solomon, Peter, Paul and John. By Peterson’s reckoning, each biblical personality offers a distinctive approach, and sermons preached in their company together help to constitute "the whole counsel of God." The sermons span his three decades at the Maryland congregation, and glimmers of the congregation’s personality appear.
After all, Peterson consistently refused to accept God’s self-revelation simply as a set of high-flown propositions. Rather, he insisted on the Mystery of Incarnation—God taking on flesh and blood and moving into the neighborhood. And that means the church, the Body of Christ, likewise must live out its faith in the common day-to-day routines of the workplace, the home and the streets.

So, the sermons seem simultaneously directed to a specific congregation in Bel Air and universally applicable to all God’s people, wherever they live. And they do it with poetic sensitivity. Peterson writes: "Poetry is not the language of objective explanation but the language of imagination. It makes an image of reality in such a way as to invite our participation in it."

As any reader of The Message translation of Scripture knows, Peterson has a love affair with well-chosen words. Few use language with the grace and skill he exhibits. At the same time, the sermons collected here make it clear Peterson’s preaching was not mere performance art. Instead, they grew out of a pastoral sensitivity to the people in the pews. The book takes its title from a poem by Gerard Manley Hopkins, which Peterson reads as a series of metaphors about congruence. The poem describes the rightness and wholeness found when what one is and what one does are seamless. This collection of sermons by pastor-poet Peterson has that sense of congruence."
—The Baptist Standard

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  1. Pastor Jay
    Age: 45-54
    Gender: male
    5 Stars Out Of 5
    We Carry a Message Larger than Ourselves
    October 12, 2017
    Pastor Jay
    Age: 45-54
    Gender: male
    Quality: 5
    Value: 5
    Meets Expectations: 5
    Eugene Peterson is a master with the English Language. This book is a pleasure to read. In As Kingfisher's Catch Fire Peterson offers a selection of sermons from his 30 plus years as a pastor. His sermons address a particular context which he helpfully explains throughout. There are highs and lows he dealt with in his ministry. Yet, I found myself shaking my head over and over because he was also speaking to my context as well. Peterson speaks to universal human concerns. He encourages us. He makes us laugh. Peterson comes alongside us. Perhaps that is the point of this book. The message of Christ's love takes residence in our hearts but that message is much larger than only our individual lives. It is a fire to be shared with the entire world. Kingfisher's would be especially helpful to teachers and preachers; but it will offer light to anyone who might feel overwhelmed by darkness. Kingfisher's offers insight about how to be a human being.
  2. AmyL
    5 Stars Out Of 5
    As Kingfishers Catch Fire
    September 21, 2017
    AmyL
    Quality: 5
    Value: 5
    Meets Expectations: 5
    This is my first Peterson book, and I couldn't be happier to be starting here. As Kingfishers Catch Fire does not read like the typical non-fiction books I read. Rather, it is a collection of 49 sermons given by Peterson during his 29 years as a pastor in Maryland. This book reads like a transcript of Peterson's sermons. And the format reads a bit differently as well. This collection of 49 sermons is set in seven groups of seven sermons each. The beautiful part of organizing the book in this way is the congruence that flows through the book. There's a thread that begins in the very first chapter and flows throughout the rest of the book in a seamless manner. It's not a straight read through the Bible.

    It's not a straight read through the Bible. But it's a pulling together of New Testament with Old Testament truths. Peterson writes from a place of understanding his genealogy in a long line pastors and teachers of the Word. There's a weight to the words written (and ultimately spoken) because Peterson realizes he is not starting from scratch.

    I've marked up so many pages of this book. Underlining key points. Going back to chew on nuggets of information I'd never considered before. There is truth in this book that will make you think in ways you haven't before.

    I received a copy of this book from the publisher. This review is my own, honest opinion.
  3. Gini
    5 Stars Out Of 5
    As Kingfishers Catch Fire
    June 28, 2017
    Gini
    Quality: 5
    Value: 5
    Meets Expectations: 5
    I am enjoying this book so much already that I decided to go ahead a write a few lines about it. Eugene Peterson is hardly a new name to many people, but for me, we are just getting acquainted. And Ive found that this book is a treasure, maybe even a classic. Time will decide that. I hope the parishioners he served over the years will find it so.

    This is a compilation of his sermons arranged in seven sets of seven centered around seven key figures of the Bible from Moses to John of Patmos. The lives and times of those individuals will also take the reader through the timeline of the Bible and a lot if its text. His sermons are not long or tedious. Nor is this a book that you plow through and set aside. Instead, he gives the reader food for thought that requires time to digest properly. That time is not wasted either, in my opinion.

    Eloquent, thoughtful, timeless.



    I received this book from the publisher in return for a review.

  4. 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.
  5. 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.
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