*** DEBUG END ***

As Kingfishers Catch Fire: A conversation on the ways of God formed by the words of God by Eugene Peterson

05 January 2018

Mike Starkey enjoys the sermons of a leading spiritual speaker of our day

DON’T bother trying to find a publisher for your old sermons. You will receive a polite but firm letter informing you that there is no market for them — unless, that is, you are Eugene Peterson.

Peterson is best known as translator of the Message Bible, and author of a small library of lyrical, insightful writings on faith and pastoral ministry. His approach to the spiritual life was formed through 29 years as pastor of a Presbyterian church in a sleepy town in Maryland, and this book collects 49 of his sermons from those years. The title of the collection comes from a poem by Gerard Manley Hopkins, and Peterson writes of his particular debt to Hopkins and to the Swiss physician Paul Tournier in shaping his understanding of faith.

This is not, says Peterson, a “greatest hits” collection, but a representative selection from three decades of pastoral ministry. With an eye to biblical symbolism, the sermons are grouped in seven clusters of seven, each with a short introduction. Each section is themed around a character in the Bible: Moses, Solomon, John of Patmos, and so on.

The faith unpacked throughout is gentle and earthy, with the same poetic lyricism as characterises Peterson’s books, shot through with flashes of insight. Preaching on the Song of Songs, Peterson begins by noting that sex and prayer are both ways of looking at the same thing: relational intimacy.

These sermons mostly date from the 1960s to the 1980s. Most preachers today might want to include more practical application than the tentative suggestions with which Peterson ends most of the talks in this collection. But that is a minor niggle. This is a lovely selection from the back-catalogue of one of the leading spiritual voices of our day, rich in poetry and wisdom, close to the very bones of what it means to be human.


The Revd Mike Starkey is a tutor for the Church Army, and author of the “Faith Pictures” evangelism course.


As Kingfishers Catch Fire: A conversation on the ways of God formed by the words of God
Eugene Peterson
Hodder & Stoughton £14.99
Church Times Bookshop £13.50

Church Times Bookshop

Save money on books reviewed or featured in the Church Times. To get your reader discount:

> Click on the “Church Times Bookshop” link at the end of the review.

> Call 0845 017 6965 (Mon-Fri, 9.30am-5pm).

The reader discount is valid for two months after the review publication date. E&OE

Forthcoming Events

6-7 September 2022
Preaching as Pilgrimage conference
From the College of Preachers.

27-28 September 2022
humbler church Bigger God conference
The HeartEdge Conference in Manchester includes the Theology Slam Live Final.

More events

The Church Times Archive

Read reports from issues stretching back to 1863, search for your parish or see if any of the clergy you know get a mention.

FREE for Church Times subscribers.

Explore the archive

Welcome to the Church Times

​To explore the Church Times website fully, please sign in or subscribe.

Non-subscribers can read four* articles for free each month. (You will need to register.)

*Until the end of June: we’re doubling the number of free articles to eight, to celebrate the publication of our Platinum Jubilee double issue.