Frederick Buechner (1926-2022)

| Weekly Word

Years ago, my Aunt Lucille and Uncle Carl invited me to attend a baccalaureate service at Wake Forest University.  Frederick Buechner was the preacher for the day.  I fear that I do not remember what Buechner said, but I do remember that he looked like he really meant what he was saying.  It was simply great to be in the same room with him.  

Frederick Buechner, a Presbyterian minister called to the ministry of writing, died this past week in Vermont, at the age of 96.  He was the author of many books and essays, many of which I have in my office.  Many of his writings helped to shape my faith as a college and seminary student.  There are so many times that I have turned to Buechner to get his unique perspective about this sacred journey that we are all on.  

My favorite Buechner quote is almost a throwaway line in "The Book of Bebb," one of Buechner's novels.  Leo Bebb, a preacher with a not-too-orthodox view of life and ministry, is having a conversation with Antonio Parr, the narrator of the novel.

"Listen," Bebb said.  "That's not even half of what I believe.""What else do you believe?" I said."Antonio," Bebb said.  "I believe everything."It was a remark of such classic grandeur that for a few moments I sat there in the twilight silent before the sheer magnitude of it.  "You make it sound almost easy," I said finally."Don't kid yourself," Bebb said, turning slowly to where he could look at me.  "It's hard as hell."

In college, after encountering (and rejecting) the restrictive  fundamentalist/inerrantist leanings of some of my friends, I was so thankful to read such an expansive view of what belief could be.  "I believe everything," Bebb said.  I took this to mean that he believed in the ultimate possibility and gracious mystery of God - something that could not be systematized, even by the greatest of minds.  In my mind and heart, there will always be something wild and unpredictable about the way God works - beyond our knowing, because we can't know everything.  In my attempts at believing, I find this mystery more comforting than not, even though trusting in the mystery of God can be, as Bebb says, "hard as hell."  Thanks Frederick Buechner, for expanding my mind and heart and faith.

Grace and Peace,

John

PS - If you’re looking for a good starting place with Buechner’s writing, I would suggest The Sacred Journey, The Alphabet of Grace, or Wishful Thinking.


Prepare for worship this week:  “Unbinding Faith - A Posture of Delight”