By Mark Ellis —
Influential theologian and pastor Eugene Peterson, author of The Message, passed to his heavenly reward on the morning of October 22nd, but not without an encounter with heaven immediately before his home-going.
On October 9th Peterson was admitted to the hospital as the result of an infection. Previously, heart disease and dementia had caused a steady decline in his health. The infection complicated his condition and one week ago it was announced that he had been placed on hospice care.
The family released a statement about the moments immediately preceding his passing, which seem to indicate “the veil” between this life and the next was pulled back, beckoning the great scholar home.
“During the previous days, it was apparent that he was navigating the thin and sacred space between earth and heaven,” they noted.
His family witnessed a remarkable exchange! “We overheard him speaking to people we can only presume were welcoming him into paradise. There may have even been a time or two when he accessed his Pentecostal roots and spoke in tongues as well.”
Among his last words were, “Let’s go,” which suggest his anticipation and perhaps a glimpse of the beauty and eternal delight set before him.
His countenance radiated that expectancy. “And his joy: my, oh my; the man remained joyful right up to his blessed end, smiling frequently.”
The family were hushed by the reverential moment of his passing. “In such moments it’s best for all mortal flesh to keep silence. But if you have to say something say this: ‘Holy, Holy, Holy.’”
“It feels fitting that his death came on a Monday, the day of the week he always honored as a Sabbath during his years as a pastor. After a lifetime of faithful service to the church—running the race with gusto—it is reassuring to know that Eugene has now entered into the fullness of the Kingdom of God and has been embraced by eternal Sabbath,” his family noted.
Peterson spent 30 years as the pastor of Christ Our King Presbyterian Church, a Presbyterian Church (USA) congregation he launched in Bel Air, Md. At the same time, he pursued his writing, which became influential.
Many esteemed his paraphrase of the Bible, The Message, written in contemporary language he thought would make the Scripture accessible to a wider audience.
Peterson wrote more than 30 books, including a 2011 memoir The Pastor and the Christian classic, “A Long Obedience in the Same Direction.”
His son Eric admired and respected his memory. “Every moment in this man’s presence is sacred,” he said.