As part of my studies here at Denver Seminary, I am required to take part in a mentoring program during five semesters of my studies. Each semester I create character contracts and skill contracts, to help me work on areas of my life that I believe I need to grow in. For my skill contract I will be spending the semester looking at what skill set is needed for a pastor today. To complement my conversations with pastors and church goers, I am also reading Eugene Peterson's Five Smooth Stones for Pastoral Leadership. I started this book last week and already I have found my nuggets of wisdom that Peterson has learned through his many years as a pastor. One of the aspects of the first chapter that has shocked me was the theological significance and depth he has shown exists in the Song of Songs. I have read through the Song of Songs many times, however, I always read it through the lens of marriage and physical intimacy. Throughout his first chapter Peterson explains that while there is a relational element we can learn from this book, we must also look at what the Songs tells us about the character of God and our relationship both to Him and others.
One of my favorite quotes from this book came when he was describing the pastoral themes found within the Songs and how these show a type of "saving love, the kind of love that rescues from nonbeing and creates being-in relationships." As he continues describing how we should approach the Song of Songs he profoundly states;
The love lyrics of the Song are a guard against every tendency to turn living faith into a lifeless 'religion.' They make sure that as we proclaim the truth of God, we do not exclude faith in God. The Song provides correctives to our tendencies to reduce faith to a tradition, or to make an academic dogma of it. It insists that however impressive the acts of God and however exalted the truths of GOd, they are not too great or too high to be experiences by ordinary people in the minutiae of the everyday."
What a picture of the importance of our relationship with God and the necessity of remembering not to exclude faith in God as we proclaim him. As I look forward to obtaining a position as a pastor, it is important to remember that we must not reduce our faith to merely a tradition. Tradition is important, but we need to remember that we serve a living and active God, one who must be worshiped whole-heartedly! I am excited to continue reading this book and see how many other ways I find that Peterson challenges my preconceived notions about pastoral ministry.