experience.

“…All of this deepens the silence with which (the audience) sits there waiting for (the preacher) to work a miracle, and the miracle they are waiting for is that he will not just say that God is present, because they have heard it said before and it has made no great and lasting difference to them, will not just speak the word of joy, hope, comedy, because they have heard it spoken before too and have spoken it among themselves, but that he will somehow make it real to them. They wait for him to make God real to them through the sacrament of words as God is supposed to become real in the sacrament of bread and wine, and there is no place where the preacher is more aware of his own nakedness and helplessness than here in the pulpit as he listens to the silence of their waiting. Poor, bare, forked animal in his cassock with his heart in his mouth if not yet his foot. What can he say? What word can he speak with power enough to empower them, waiting here?

But let him take heart. He is called not to be an actor, a magician, in the pulpit. He is called to be himself. He is called to tell the truth as he has experienced it. He is called to be human, to be human, for that is calling enough for any man. If he does not make real to them the human experience of what it is to cry into the storm and receive no answer, to be sick at heart and find no healing, then he becomes the only one there who seems not to have had that experience because most surely under their bonnets and shawls and jackets, under their afros and ponytails, all the others there have had it whether they talk of it or not. As much as anything else, it is their experience of the absence of God that has brought them there in search of his presence, and if the preacher does not speak of that and to that, then he becomes like the captain of a ship who is the only one aboard who either does not know that the waves are twenty feet high and the decks awash or will not face up to it so that anything else he tries to say by way of hope and comfort and empowering becomes suspect on the basis of that one crucial ignorance or disingenuousness or cowardice or reluctance to speak in love any truths but the ones that people love to hear.”

Frederick Buechner, Telling the Truth, pp. 40-1.

experience.

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