My review of the late Eugene Peterson’s “A Month of Sundays”.
Goals of the Book:
Late last year, the Christian world lost an icon with the passing of pastor Euegene Peterson. Most are familiar with Peterson thanks to the success of the popular (yet controversial in some circles) Message translation. Others may be familiar with him as a prolific writer outside of the Message, including books like Long Discipleship in the Same Direction or Running with Horses. I have been blessed by Peterson’s ministry, even if he and I do have different opinions on how to extrapolate from passages or translate the Bible. It speaks to the strength of his character and wisdom that, despite being a bullish young, restless, reformed Calvinist when I first encountered him, he was able to speak to me regardless.
This book is a blessing in that it contains new material from Peterson, sermons that were collected before his death. These sermons are broken down into more manageable portions, each trying to be suitable for reading in a single sitting. Those familiar with Kingfishers Catch Fire may be accustomed to this sort of sermonic writing, but it may be new for some readers. Regardless, this book exists as a way to continue to release Peterson’s material so that the church can be blessed with more of his insights.
What Does this Book Offer the Church:
The overarching concern of this book is how we talk during the week. This isn’t something like Peterson’s concern that we start swearing, though that may be part of it. Instead, Peterson is concerned that we don’t speak like the Bible throughout the week. We go to church on Sunday, sing hymns and songs, and hear from the Scriptures, and that shapes us a bit, but some of us don’t continue to speak the same way throughout the week. The aim of this book is to transform our regular days of the week, helping us to speak and talk more like the Scriptures do every day, not just Sundays.
The book is also an exploration of the Gospels, which more and more Christians should find themselves willing and interested in reading. By wrestling with the Gospels text, we can learn more about Jesus, how he spoke, and how he acted. One thing I appreciate about Peterson is that he doesn’t shy away from potentially boring parts of the text, like the genealogies, yet uses them as means by which we can learn to speak the Bible’s language.
How Effectively Does This Book Meet its Goals?:
Right off the bat, I should note that these sermons are not exegetical sermons in the way that most readers of this blog would expect. Rather than looking at the text line by line, Peterson offers an extended reflection on the meaning he found in the text and offers general insight and commentary on the text itself. This would suggest that most people who only like, read, or consume one single type of sermon would not benefit greatly from this book, being more distracted by the prose than it’s worth.
That being said, those who are prepared to learn about the Gospel texts from an angle they might not consider personally are in for a treat. I would not have categorized most texts the way Peterson does, but I found a lot of insight and a lot of warmth in his pastoral reflections.