Thursday, August 18, 2022

"Your life is trying to tell you something"

Russell Moore on his books by Frederick Buechner:
.... For years, I had heard those stories [the parables] preached just like the Pauline Epistles. The pastor would break them down for us—point by subpoint by sub-subpoint—telling us the interpretation and application of each part.

But Buechner had more to say. “If we think the purpose of Jesus’ stories is essentially to make a point as extractable as the moral at the end of a fable,” he wrote, “then the inevitable conclusion is that once you get the point, you can throw the story itself away like the rind of an orange when you have squeezed out the juice.”

That’s not how stories work, Buechner taught us. They’re meant to involve us—not just with our minds but with our affections and emotions and intuitions too. And all that points us to Jesus himself, who is the Truth, “the whole story of him.”....

I never say “Christ” without also saying the word “Jesus.” That’s because Buechner knew the phrase “Christ saves” wouldn’t make us nearly as uncomfortable as the phrase “Jesus saves” would.

“The words ‘Christ saves’ … have a kind of objective, theological ring to them,” he penned, “whereas ‘Jesus’ saves seems cringingly, painfully personal—somebody named Jesus, of all names, saving somebody named whatever your name happens to be.” The personal name Jesus reminds us that what we accept or reject is not an abstraction but a Person.

On down the shelf is Wishful Thinking, which, like so many of these books, prompted readers to reflect on how Jesus, that living Story, makes sense of all the other true stories—including the existence of God.

Unlike many evangelical apologists, Buechner did not turn to logic or other evidence to attempt to prove that God exists. “It is as impossible for man to demonstrate the existence of God as it would be for even Sherlock Holmes to demonstrate the existence of Arthur Conan Doyle,” he said. God is not data we can manage, he seemed to say, but is living and personal and the One who is writing the story in which we live and move.

A few spaces down on the bookshelf is Buechner’s The Alphabet of Grace, which even now startles me into paying attention to the miracle of the ordinary:
You get married, a child is born or not born, in the middle of the night there is a knocking at the door, on the way home through the park you see a man feeding pigeons, all the tests come in negative and the doctor gives you back your life again: incident follows incident helter-skelter leading apparently nowhere, but then once in a while there is the suggestion of purpose, meaning, direction, the suggestion of plot, the suggestion that, however clumsily, your life is trying to tell you something, take you somewhere. ....
Moore suggests where to start if you want to read Buechner:
I suggest getting a copy of the devotional called Listening to Your Life: Daily Meditations with Frederick Buechner (Harper). Now, devotionals like this will often chop an author’s work into day-sized nuggets that are out of context—and the result is usually awful. But this one is helpful because you can sample various sections, organized by topic. When you find something that really speaks to you, it’s just a matter of checking the source list at the end to see what book it comes from and going from there. (more)
Russell Moore, "Frederick Buechner Helped Keep Me Christian," Moore to the Point, August 18, 2022.

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