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  • Tim Blodgett

Buechner and Truth

Frederick Buechner died at the age of 96 on Monday. Many will not recognize the name, but most preachers and careful listeners of sermons will. The often-quoted writer and minister left a lasting impact on the church. The award-winning author leaves a legacy of essays, sermons, and books that have influenced generations of ministers and church-goers.

I became aware of Buechner in my earliest days as a Christian in college. His book Telling the Truth: The Gospel As Tragedy, Comedy, & Fairy Tale shattered a perception on the life of faith that I had carried for most of my life: the (false) perfection of the Christian and the Christian church. Deep inside I knew this perfection was not true. I had met enough Christians to know it was not true, but Buechner told the truth about our sin and brokenness so well and in such a way that it reoriented my inner spiritual life and my perception of what the church was. The false piety and falseness of so many Christians I had met before then melted away as a new possibility of what the Christian faith was and could be took hold. We truly were the rotten and redeemed and could honestly express both sides of that equation.

I came to faith in a pre-millennium time that suffered from the twin excesses of believing that this world was awful, corrupt, and vile and that soon we would all (the good ones at least) be raptured up to a perfect heavenly reward away from it. Our life of faith in word and deed, here and now, was neglected. Buechner brought those two worlds closer for me. He wrote, “The gospel is bad news before it is good news.”[1] The gospel is the news of our sin and brokenness before the reality of Christ’s saving grace and atonement. It is doubt before faith. It is the treachery, betrayal, torture, and death of Maundy Thursday and Good Friday before the resurrection and new hope of Easter Sunday. Not creation and Creator eternally separate but God breaking into the brokenness of this world. Not sin forever separating us from God but God powerfully and decisively acting in Jesus Christ to meet us in this place.

To say that another way, I could not say Romans 8:38-39 with the conviction I do before Buechner. He raised a veil from my early faith about what Christian faith was and should be. He told the truth and allowed truth to move faith forward to hope. “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Blessings, Rev. Tim Blodgett General Presbyter

[1] Buechner, Frederick. Telling the Truth: The Gospel as Tragedy, Comedy, and Fairy Tale. San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1977. 7. Print.

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