It has been a long time since a book felt like a cool drink of water on a hot day, or sitting down on a comfortable chair after a long and weary walk, or sharing a good meal with safe people after days of hostile deliberations. Frederick Buechner’s book Telling the Truth was that for me this week.
Telling the Truth is a book about preaching the Gospel written for preachers of the Gospel. It is a reminder that what we do is vital to the health–to the salvation–of the world, both at the global level and the individual. And yet, it is not a preachy book, or a technical how-to book. It is more like a poem or a beautiful painting. It reads like a good novel.
Buechner is a brilliant author. His every word drips with passion and poetry and I was compelled to keep reading this accessible and refreshingly short book. He frames the Gospel, and the telling of the Gospel, in three movements. First, the Gospel is tragedy. God seems absent, all seems lost, and nothing makes sense. This is the truth of our human condition. Second, the Gospel is comedy. God enters this absence in the most ridiculous and surprising ways and does the most foolish thing. God saves us. All we can do is laugh with the surprise of joy at this outlandish proposal. Third, the Gospel is fantasy. Miracles do happen. There is life beyond the wardrobe and the looking glass. We are not left to fix ourselves within our own mortality. The Gospel does save and transform the world, and this is our hope.
Read this book. Better yet, feast on this book and be fed. It is the good news that we need to hear again and again.