As Kingfishers Catch Fire
By Eugene H. Peterson (Waterbrook)
For nearly three decades, members of Christ Our King Presbyterian Church in Bel Air, Md., enjoyed a rare privilege. Week by week, they listened to wordsmith Eugene Peterson preach. Over his 29 years as the congregation’s founding pastor, those worshippers undoubtedly heard some of the most skillfully crafted sermons delivered in the past generation. In the process, they learned what God had to say to them as a specific group of Christ-followers in their unique context. Peterson has described the sermons as a collaborative effort—an ongoing conversation between the pastor and his people, as they collectively listened for a word from God.
Those of us who did not have the opportunity to hear the sermons delivered now have access to the next-best thing. As Kingfishers Catch Fire collects 49 sermons—seven each grouped under the names of Moses, David, Isaiah, Solomon, Peter, Paul and John. By Peterson’s reckoning, each biblical personality offers a distinctive approach, and sermons preached in their company together help to constitute “the whole counsel of God.” The sermons span his three decades at the Maryland congregation, and glimmers of the congregation’s personality appear.
After all, Peterson consistently refused to accept God’s self-revelation simply as a set of high-flown propositions. Rather, he insisted on the Mystery of Incarnation—God taking on flesh and blood and moving into the neighborhood. And that means the church, the Body of Christ, likewise must live out its faith in the common day-to-day routines of the workplace, the home and the streets.
So, the sermons seem simultaneously directed to a specific congregation in Bel Air and universally applicable to all God’s people, wherever they live. And they do it with poetic sensitivity. Peterson writes: “Poetry is not the language of objective explanation but the language of imagination. It makes an image of reality in such a way as to invite our participation in it.”
As any reader of The Message translation of Scripture knows, Peterson has a love affair with well-chosen words. Few use language with the grace and skill he exhibits. At the same time, the sermons collected here make it clear Peterson’s preaching was not mere performance art. Instead, they grew out of a pastoral sensitivity to the people in the pews. The book takes its title from a poem by Gerard Manley Hopkins, which Peterson reads as a series of metaphors about congruence. The poem describes the rightness and wholeness found when what one is and what one does are seamless. This collection of sermons by pastor-poet Peterson has that sense of congruence.
Ken Camp, managing editor
The Cat Burglars
By Max Elliot Anderson (Elk Lake)
Author Max Elliot Anderson quickly grabs young readers’ attention with his main character, Kurt Benson. The 11-year-old’s exuberant personality adds to the story. His neighborhood friend has been burglarized, so he rushes off to his summer job at a doggie/cat kennel and shares the news with his two best friends, Riley and Jordan. This sets the stage for the drama throughout the pages of Anderson’s novel.
As the home burglaries escalate, the trio team up to solve the crimes. Anderson masterfully mixes humor and suspense, keeping readers engaged. In their determination to catch the villains, Kurt, Riley and Jordan struggle balancing work, sleep and parents.
Young readers will find the adventures of the three boys entertaining and funny.
Bobbie Bomar Brown