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

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

by Eugene H. Peterson


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Living Out the Word Made Flesh
“Sixty years ago I found myself distracted,” Eugene Peterson wrote. “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 congruencecongruence 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.
Nothing captures the biblical foundation for this journey better than Peterson’s teachings over his twenty-nine years as a pastor. As Kingfishers Catch Fire offers a collection of these teachings to anyone longing for a richer, truer spirituality.
Peterson’s strikingly beautiful prose and deeply grounded insights usher us into a new understanding of how to live out the good news of the Word made flesh. 

This is one man’s compelling quest to discover not only how to be a pastor but how to be a human being.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781601429698
Publisher: The Crown Publishing Group
Publication date: 05/14/2019
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 400
Sales rank: 291,235
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.20(d)

About the Author

Eugene H. Peterson, translator of The Message Bible, authored more than thirty books, including the spiritual classics Run with the Horses and A Long Obedience in the Same Direction. He earned a degree in philosophy from Seattle Pacific University, a graduate degree in theology from New York Theological Seminary, and a master’s degree in Semitic languages from John Hopkins University. He also received several honorary doctoral degrees. He was founding pastor of Christ Our King Presbyterian Church in Bel Air, Maryland, where he and his wife, Jan, served for twenty-nine years. Peterson held the title of professor emeritus of spiritual theology at Regent College, British Columbia from 1998 until his death in 2018.

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Excerpted from "As Kingfishers Catch Fire"
by .
Copyright © 2019 Eugene H. Peterson.
Excerpted by permission of The Crown Publishing Group.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Letter to the Reader xiii

Preface xv

Part 1 "He Spoke and it Game to Be": Preaching in the Company of Moses

Introduction 3

1 Genesis 1: "In the Beginning God Created" 8

2 Genesis 12: "Friend of God" 15

3 Genesis 21: "And Sarah Conceived" 22

4 Exodus 32: "Make Us Gods" 28

5 Leviticus 19: "Love Your Neighbor as Yourself" 35

6 Numbers 23: "You Have Done Nothing but Bless" 42

7 Deuteronomy II: "Your Eyes Have Seen" 49

Part 2 "All My Springs are in You": Preaching in the Company of David

Introduction 59

1 Psalm 110: "From the Womb of the Morning" 63

2 Psalm 116: "Land of the Living" 70

3 Psalm 29: "The Beauty of Holiness" 78

4 Psalm 108: "I Will Awake the Dawn" 85

5 Psalm 114: "The Mountains Skipped like Rams" 93

6 Psalm 23: "Surely Goodness and Mercy" 100

7 Psalm I: "Blessed" 106

Part 3 "Prepare the Way of the Lord": Preaching in the Company of Isaiah

Introduction 115

1 Isaiah 6: "Holy, Holy, Holy" 119

2 Isaiah 61: 'A Garland Instead of Ashes" 126

3 Isaiah 11: "The Root of Jesse" 131

4 Isaiah 9: "For to Us a Child Is Born" 138

5 Isaiah 40: "Speak Tenderly to Jerusalem" 144

6 Isaiah 42: "Behold My Servant" 151

7 Isaiah 35: "Strengthen the Weak Heart" 157

Part 4 "On Earth as it is in Heaven" Preaching in the Company of Solomon

Introduction 165

1 Song of Solomon 8: "Many Waters Cannot Quench Love" 168

2 Job 38: "Out of the Whirlwind" 176

3 Proverbs I: "Wisdom Cries Aloud" 182

4 Proverbs 22: "Train Up a Child" 188

5 Proverbs 8: "I Was Beside Him" 195

6 Ecclesiastes 5: "Sacrifice of Fools" 201

7 Ecclesiastes 9: "Let Your Garments Be Always White" 207

Part 5 "Yes and Amen and Jesus": Preaching in the Company of Peter

Introduction 217

1 Mark 8: "Who Do Men Say That I Am?" 222

2 Mark 1: "With the Wild Beasts" 230

3 Matthew 5: "Jesus Went up the Mountain" 236

4 Mark 10: "Do for Us Whatever We Ask" 242

5 Luke 13: "Sir, Let It Alone" 249

6 Mark 15: "The Death of Death" 256

7 Mark 16: "He Is Not Here" 261

Part 6 "Christ in You the Hope of Glory" Preaching in the Company of Paul

Introduction 269

1 Romans 3: "But Now the Righteousness of God" 274

2 1 Corinthians 1: "Jews Demand Signs and Greeks Seek Wisdom" 281

3 Galatians 5: "For Freedom Christ Has Set Us Free" 287

4 Ephesians 4: "Speaking the Truth in Love" 294

5 Philippians 4: "In Him Who Strengthens Me" 300

6 Colossians 3: "Aspire to the Realm Above" 306

7 Philemon 1: "On Behalf of My Child, Onesimus" 313

Part 7 "In the Beginning was the Word": Preaching in the Company of John of Patmos

Introduction 321

1 John 12: "Father, Glorify Thy Name" 327

2 John 10: "I Am the Good Shepherd" 333

3 John 14: "I Am the Way" 339

4 John 16: "I Am Leaving … I Am Sending" 344

5 John 21: "Why Peter?" 351

6 I John 3: "See What Love" 358

7 Revelation 19: "The Marriage Supper of the Lamb" 365

Acknowledgments 373


You often talk about "the essential Christian life." Can you unpack that for us?

I use the word essential to give a sense of the ordinary as being "everyday" and yet something that cannot be done without. I have been trying for years now to develop a pastoral imagination among my pastor peers that gathers everything that pastors are responsible for including in their assigned task in their congregations.

Please explain the fascinating origin of your book title—As Kingfishers Catch Fire. What does it mean?

"As Kingfishers Catch Fire" is a poem by Gerard Manly Hopkins, an English poet and Jesuit priest from the last century who early in my pastoral vocation fascinated me by making connections between virtually everything there is and then concludes with:

"the just man justices: that keeps all his goings graces...

Acts in God's eye what in God's eye he is—

Christ—for Christ plays in ten thousand places,

Lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not his

To the Father through the features of men's faces."

This poem permeated everything I did as a pastor: preaching from the pulpit, teaching, calling on the sick, conducting funerals, baptizing, making small talk in the street. It gave me a range wide enough to keep everything I did as a pastor congruent with everything else.

You were a pastor for nearly three decades. How did you choose which teachings you would include in your book?

Mostly, I think, by listening to the men, women, and children in my congregation. I was always pretty much saturated in the Scriptures but I was also listening at the same time to my congregation and connecting what the Bible said with what my parishioners were saying.

In your teaching about Abraham, you talk about friendship. In our fast-paced world, we often forget the importance of true friendship. How would you describe true friendship?

True friendship is the same "yesterday, today, and forever." It is not disturbed by ups and downs, there is a constancy to it. In order to cultivate this kind of friendship there has to be some deliberate decision that takes place. True friendship is a quiet thing. It develops in the ordinariness of a faithful life.

You say that Abraham had a quite "ordinary" friendship with God. Please explain.

All friendship when we think about it is "ordinary." One of the primary difficulties in the American congregation today is an obsession with size and innovation. But with several thousand people gathered under one roof no pastor can get acquainted with the people who have come to worship. "Worship" as it is pursued by so many today is a distraction from anything relational or enduring.

What is striking in your book As Kingfishers Catch Fire is that we have some of the same cultural situations in our world that you identified many years ago when you shared these sermons with your congregation. For instance, you describe an "undercurrent of fear fueled by neurotic or manipulative religion." In light of this, you say we need to develop and Abrahamic imagination. Can you explain this for us and share why this is so essential?

Obviously we have to study our situation in the world today. Abraham built altars. If we think of Abraham as the star quarterback on God's salvation team, we will most certainly misunderstand both Abraham and ourselves. His life is enveloped in deep shades. The times in which he lived are obscure and dark, as are ours. But what emerged out of all that is this word friend.

What we do know of Abraham is his quite ordinary friendship with God and God's friendship with Abraham, using the everyday stuff of the culture—hostility, altar building, family relationships, famine, sacrifice—but using it all sacramentally, using the visible circumstances and people and things as witnesses and occasions for being in faith present to God as friend.

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As Kingfishers Catch Fire: A Conversation on the Ways of God Formed by the Words of God 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I interrupted the book I am writing so Eugene would more flow through me and it I believe there is no better author in our time And I know Eugene will be happy to know that the author is not really him As a Eugene-like friend says when I complement him, "I just try to stay out of God's way" ? Peterson excels beyond measure in this and so many other regards If more Christians read him--and acted on what they read--the church would be revolutionized Maranatha!
Amaack More than 1 year ago
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.