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By Dan Baumgartner on
Dan Baumgartner
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Feb 12 in Dan's Musings
Next week I will be in Tulsa, OK for the National Gathering of The Fellowship Community (TFC). I’ll be accompanied by Pastor Joel and elders Mac Heald and Liz Smith. It promises to be a very engaging week with 225 people from around the country. For your review, TFC is the networking group of evangelical churches and leaders within the PCUSA. Hollywood Pres is a member, and I am on the Board. (For a reminder of the non-political use of the word “evangelical,” see my September 28, 2018 Musing here: http://www.fpchollywood.org/dans-musings/entry/words or just look it up on the church website.)  For this Gathering, I was asked to lead a workshop on “The Legacy of Eugene Peterson.” So I’ve been thinking a lot this week about my longtime mentor and friend who passed away last October.  I miss him, and appreciate him more than ever.
Eugene was a prolific author, but even more, he was a pastor. He cared for people and loved the Church deeply. His preaching didn’t stand out in some spectacular way, and that wasn’t what got him invited to national conferences. Yet, every time I heard him preach there would be one or two nuggets that made me think “Ooh, I need to think a little more about that.” Some of his sermons were gathered in a 2017 book called As Kingfishers Catch Fire (the title of a Gerard Manley Hopkins poem). I was reading one this week from Numbers 23, the story of Balaam. Here’s what it said:
 
“Balaam had a great reputation as a spiritual giant, but it was all external. His oratory was all in his mouth, not his heart. He had nothing inside. There was no substance to him, a hollow man. His life was all greed, ambition, and selfish gain. Balaam said all the right things but did all the wrong things.”
 
And then came the nugget, the one line that jumped off the page for me:
           
“So, a warning against religious eloquence- your own or someone else’s.”
Zing. Religious eloquence. For me as a pastor, and for all of us, could it be that we sometimes have a disconnect between our heart and our mouth?  Do we know the right talk, the clichés to pray, the Christian-ese to mouth, but fail to cultivate the depth with Christ that gives power and truth to our words?  It’s just as applicable for a coffeeshop conversation or a family gathering as it is for a pulpit sermon. Religious eloquence isn’t the goal. Authenticity, honesty and a vulnerability to the Holy Spirit is what’s needed.  It’s a good warning. 
 
     See you soon,
                    Pastor Dan

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