Friday, April 21, 2006


A LIFE IN SERMONS. One of my favorite thinkers, preachers and writers is Frederick Buechner. Reading him always seems to put me more in touch with myself and with God. He's best known for books like Wishful Thinking and The Alphabet of Grace. I am currently reading a selection of his best essays and sermons, A Life in Sermons. Here's an excerpt of Buechner's wisdom on hope and the Resurrection:

AT THE HEART OF OUR HOPE. "At the heart of all our hoping is the hope that God whom all the shouting is about really exists. And at the heart of the heart is Christ -- the hope that he really is what for years we have been saying he is. That he really conquered sin and death. That in him and through him we also stand a chance of conquering them. 'If Christ has not raised from the dead, your faith is futile and you are still in sins,' Saint Paul wrote to the Corinthians. 'If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.'"

HOPE AND HOPELESSNESS. "If preachers are going to talk about hope, let them talk as honestly as Saint Paul did about hopelessness. Let them acknowledge the darkness and pitiableness of the human condition, including their own condition, into which hope brings still a glimmer of light."

SPEAK PERSONALLY, PLEASE. "And let them talk with equal honesty about their own reasons for hoping -- not just the official, doctrinal, Biblical reasons but the reasons rooted deep in their own day by day experience. They have hope that God exists because from time to time over the years they believe they have been touched by God. Let them speak of those times with the candor and concretness and passion without which all the homiletical eloquence and technique in the world are worth little."

SPEAKING OUR HEARTS TO DEAREST FRIENDS. "They believe that Jesus is the resurrection and the life because at a few precious moments that is what they have found him to be in their own small deaths and resurrections. Let them speak of those moments not like lecturers or propagandists but like human being speaking their hearts to their dearest friends who at any given point will unerringly know whether they are speaking truth or only parroting it."

COURAGE TO BE OURSELVES. "The trouble with many sermons is not so much that the preachers are out of touch with what is going on in the world or in books or in theology but that they are out of touch with what is going on their own lives and in the lives of the people they are preaching to.Whether their subject is hope or faith or charity or anything else, let them speak out of the living truth of their own experience of those high matters. Let them have the courage to be themselves."

1 comment:

  1. Whew -- Good things I'm not preaching tomorrow! A friend and I were talking about Buechner this week. She reminded me that the book A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving is dedicated to "my teacher, Frederick Buechner." I had forgotten that. If I'd ever known it. But the hope that is encapsulated in that story often strikes me -- and it reminds me that Buechner is one heck of a teacher.


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