July 13, 2014
I get an email from The Frederick Buechner Center every day. It is one of the few things I look forward to receiving in my inbox. In the middle of all the phishing expeditions and ads, I get a quote from one of his books. What I really get is a chance to slow down and be quiet. This was today’s quote.
In the Episcopal order of worship, the priest sometimes introduces the Lord’s Prayer with the words, “Now, as our Savior Christ hath taught us, we are bold to say…” The word bold is worth thinking about. We do well not to pray the prayer lightly. It takes guts to pray it at all. We can pray it in the unthinking and perfunctory way we usually do only by disregarding what we are saying.
“Thy will be done” is what we are saying. That is the climax of the first half of the prayer. We are asking God to be God. We are asking God to do not what we want, but what God wants. We are asking God to make manifest the holiness that is now mostly hidden, to set free in all its terrible splendor the devastating power that is now mostly under restraint. “Thy kingdom come . . . on earth” is what we are saying. And if that were suddenly to happen, what then? What would stand and what would fall? Who would be welcomed in and who would be thrown the hell out? Which if any of our most precious visions of what God is and of what human beings are would prove to be more or less on the mark and which would turn out to be phony as three-dollar bills? Boldness indeed. To speak those words is to invite the tiger out of the cage, to unleash a power that makes atomic power look like a warm breeze.
You need to be bold in another way to speak the second half. Give us. Forgive us. Don’t test us. Deliver us. If it takes guts to face the omnipotence that is God’s, it takes perhaps no less to face the impotence that is ours. We can do nothing without God. We can have nothing without God. Without God we are nothing.
It is only the words “Our Father” that make the prayer bearable. If God is indeed something like a father, then as something like children maybe we can risk approaching him anyway. (Originally published in Whistling in the Dark and later in Beyond Words)
May 15, 2014
“You have an idea of what the new country looks like. Still, you are very much at home, although not truly at peace, in the old country. You know the ways of the old country, its joys and pains, its happy and sad moments. You have spent most of your days there. Even though you know that you have not found there what your heart most desires, you remain quite attached to it. It has become part of your very bones.
Now you have come to realize that you must leave it and enter the new country, where your Beloved dwells. You know that what helped and guided you in the old country no longer works, but what else do you have to go by? You are being asked to trust that you will find what you need in the new country. That requires death of what has become so precious to you: influence, success, yes, even affection and praise.
Trust is so hard, since you have nothing to fall back on . Still, trust is what is essential. The new country is where you are called to go, and the only way to go there is naked and vulnerable.
It seems that you keep crossing and recrossing the border. For a while, you experience a real joy in the new country. But then you feel afraid and start longing again for all you left behind, so you go back to the old country. To your dismay, you discover that the old country has lost its charm. Risk a few more steps into the new country, trusting that each time you enter it, you will feel more comfortable and be able to stay longer.” –Henri Nouwen, Inner Voice of Love
January 26, 2014
“The biblical view of the history of humankind and of each individual man or woman is contained in the first three chapters of Genesis. We are created to serve God by loving God and each other in freedom and joy, but we invariably choose bondage and woe instead as prices not too high to pay for independence. To say that God drove Adam and Eve out of Eden is apparently a euphemism for saying that Adam and Eve, like the rest of us, made a break for it as soon as God happened to look the other way. If God really wanted to get rid of us, the chances are God wouldn’t have kept hounding us every step of the way ever since.” – Frederick Buechner, Wishful Thinking
December 29, 2013
One of my favorite passages.
“Let us suppose we possess parts of a novel or a symphony. Someone now brings us a newly discovered piece of manuscript and says, ‘This is the missing part of the work. This is the chapter on which the whole plot of the novel really turned. This is the main theme of the symphony’. Our business would be to see whether the new passage, if admitted to the central place which the discoverer claimed for it, did actually illuminate all the parts we had already seen and ‘pull them together’. Nor should we be likely to go very far wrong. The new passage, if spurious, however attractive it looked at the first glance, would become harder and harder to reconcile with the rest of the work the longer we considered the matter. But if it were genuine then at every fresh hearing of the music or every fresh reading of the book, we should find it settling down, making itself more at home and eliciting significance from all sorts of details in the whole work which we had hitherto neglected. Even though the new central chapter or main theme contained great difficulties in itself, we should still think it genuine provided that it continually removed difficulties elsewhere. Something like this we must do with the doctrine of the Incarnation. Here, instead of a symphony or a novel, we have the whole mass of our knowledge. The credibility will depend on the extent to which the doctrine, if accepted, can illuminate and integrate that whole mass. It is much less important that the doctrine itself should be fully comprehensible. We believe that the sun is in the sky at midday in summer not because we can clearly see the sun (in fact, we cannot) but because we can see everything else.”
May 30, 2012
Doc Watson died yesterday. A master of the guitar, and a gentleman.
Here’s his last song at this years Merlefest.