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By Dan Baumgartner on
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Nov 01 in Musings
The news came from the Peterson family on my day off, Monday October 22nd:
“The lantern that has been burning brightly on the shore of Flathead Lake all last week—a sentinel witness to the life-light of Eugene H. Peterson—was extinguished today at 6:30 am Mountain Time.”
It was no surprise. Eugene had been failing rapidly in the prior weeks. Besides being a pastor, prolific author, translator of The Message version of the Bible, and mentor to thousands of people- he was also a friend and mentor to me. I mentioned in the Sunday sermon that Eugene and his wife Jan had traveled to LA in November of 2010, and Eugene had preached at my installation service at Hollywood Presbyterian.
Eugene and Jan stayed with us that weekend, which was delightful. On Saturday morning, I woke up early and went downstairs thinking I was the first person up. But Eugene was already there. I greeted him with “Well, the sun has come up- again,” and he hesitated before responding with his shy smile, “Yes, I’m glad we both made it.”
In the last week, there have been countless articles and blogposts about his life.  He invested in so many people, in so many different ways. Around the country people are mourning his passing.   He was Christ-centered, humble and lived life with integrity. Eugene was often a prophetic voice speaking to the Church in America.  I worry that we have lost that voice. He had little patience for church marketing, glitzy programs, worship as entertainment or pastors as celebrities. Pastors concerned with status or climbing the vocational ladder to bigger and bigger churches didn’t rate high on Eugene’s scale.  And an overconcern with the Church trying to be relevant drew a disdainful shake of the head. Consistency, faithfulness to the Gospel, pastors and leaders who cared for people- these were the seeds he planted and watered his whole life.
Sometimes I had people say to me, “I love Eugene Peterson’s writing- but it just doesn’t work in larger churches.” Each time I heard that sentiment, I said “Well if it can’t...then the Church is in big, big trouble.”   I still think that.
We will miss you, Eugene.  I will miss you.  Glad you made it.
See you soon,
                Pastor Dan
eugene and dan

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