Søren Kierkegaard, in Either/Or, once stated that a poet is ‘an unhappy person who conceals profound anguish in his heart but whose lips are so formed that as sighs and cries pass over them they sound like beautiful music’. He may well be right, and that not only of poets; I think too of pastors, for the years have taught me to be less surprised that poetry is one of God’s greatest gifts to pastors. Because happy or otherwise, there remains something about pastoral realities which well echoes Kierkegaard’s description.
I’ve just finished reading Poems for the Pastor: The Reflections and Poetry of Richard A. Phipps (2008), another book from our friends at Wipf and Stock. Phipps is certainly no Les Murray or Jack Kerouac or James K. Baxter – nor does he claim to be – but one is hard-pressed to know why many of these poems deserve to be in print (especially under a publishing label which is deservedly earning a stellar reputation). I love the idea of a collection of poems penned by a pastor for pastors, for those who ‘struggle for the words to express our deepest desires, hurts, expectations, counsel, and prayers for our beloved flock of sinners saved by grace’ (p. ix), but very few lines in this wee volume (74 pages!) quite cut it for me.
If you’re into sentimental, this volume might be your thing. But in my experience, sentimental never gets near to cutting it in pastoral ministry. Am I missing something here?