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Tell It Slant: A Conversation on the Language of Jesus in His Stories and Prayers by Eugene H. Peterson reading access download view format

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Tell It Slant takes its title from the famous Emily Dickinson poem: Tell all the truth but tell it slant —Success in Circuit liesToo bright for our infirm DelightThe Truths superb surpriseAs Lightning to the Children easedWith explanation kindThe Truth must dazzle graduallyOr every man be blind — This sets the stage for Eugene Peterson’s argument that the parables of Jesus are told exactly this way. It’s connected to Peterson’s translation of Matthew 13:11-14: He replied, “You’ve been given insight into God’s kingdom. You know how it works. Not everybody has this gift, this insight; it hasn’t been given to them. Whenever someone has a ready heart for this, the insights and understandings flow freely. But if there is no readiness, any trace of receptivity soon disappears. That’s why I tell stories: to create readiness, to nudge the people toward receptive insight. In their present state they can stare till doomsday and not see it, listen till they’re blue in the face and not get it.Peterson spends the first section of the book moving through the parables of Luke and demonstrating all the ways that truth dazzles gradually in each of these stories. The second section of the book deals with the language of the prayers of Jesus, although I’m not so sure they really tell the truth as slant here as in the parables. Nevertheless, it is a compelling and helpful read.In my view, Eugene Peterson is the preeminent living American Christian thinker. In a time when Evangelical Fundamentalism demands quick action and results in the working out of Gods will in the world, Peterson is the patient, poetic, and prophetic voice that brings us back to the Jesus revealed in scripture and through two thousand years of Christian witness. He writes well but he does not write simply - it takes me time to work through most of his books, as I would through a satisfying meal or walk through the woods. This examination of the stories and prayers of Jesus reawakened me to the power of the gospels parables and language. Its reminded me to be an attentive reader and listener, opening my eyes and ears to the power of the words contained in each story and prayer. Peterson saves the best part of the book for the second last chapter Jesus Prays from the Cross. Here, he brings the reader through each part of those final moments contained in the four gospels, and theres enough in these pages to provide helpful lenten reading for many years to come.The appendix is called Some Writers Who Honor the Sacred Inherent in Language. Here is the first paragraph of it, which I feel compelled to share. It reminds me why reading good books (both “sacred” and “secular”) is a spiritual practice:It is no small thing that the Christian community has men and women who pay close and continuous attention to the way it uses words. The sacrilege of language is epidemic in our culture. We live in a language wasteland. The care of words is urgent Christian work. Our assignment is clear: keep them personal, preserve their place in the creation/salvation story, maintain congruence between our conversations and our prayers. The major way we do this is by keeping company with Jesus in his stories and in his prayers. I also find it useful to keep up conversations with men and women who do this well. Some of them write books. When they write well I read their books. Here are seven writers that I like very much. (271) [N.T. Wright, Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy, William Stafford, Francis de Sales & Jane de Chantal, Flannery OConnor, Walker Percy, and Reynolds Price]

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