Frederick Buechner: “To have faith is to remember and wait”

Author and minister Frederick Buechner has been an inspiration to me since the first book of his I read, The Alphabet of Grace, a description of one day in his life. His Yale Lyman Beecher Lecture, published as Telling the Truth: The Gospel as Tragedy, Comedy, and Fairy Tale, is among the best things ever written on the art of preaching, right up there with Forsyth’s Positive Preaching and the Modern Mind.

His many novels are a treasure with richly developed characters, from the ancient Celtic saint Godric in Godric to the good hearted charleton Leo Bebb in the Book of Bebb triology. Their are no heroes in Buechner, although people sometimes do rise to heroic acts. Godric is a saint who is a sinner, and Bebb a sinner, who may be a saint. Buechner doesn’t explain simul justis et peccator, he describes it with carefully crafted words through character and plot.

Here is an excerpt from a sermon entitled A Room Called Remember from a book of the same name, where he talks of the interplay between memory and hope: ““Remember the wonderful works that he has done,’ goes David’s song—remember what he has done in the lives of each of us, and beyond that remember what he has done in the life of the world; remember what he has done above all in Christ—remember those moments in our own lives when with only the dullest understanding but with the sharpest longing we have glimpsed that Christ’s kind of life is the only life that matters and that all other kinds of life are riddled with death; remember those moments in our lives when Christ came to us in countless disguises through people who one way or another strengthened us, comforted us, healed us, judged us, by the power of Christ within them. All that is the past. All that is what there is to remember. And because that is the past, because we remember, we have this high and holy hope: that what he has done, he will continue to do, that what he has begun in us and our world, he will in unimaginable ways bring to fullness and fruition . . . The past and the future. Memory and expectation. Remember and hope. Remember and wait. Wait for him whose face we all of us know because somewhere in the past we have faintly seen it, whose life we all of us thirst for because somewhere in the past we have seen it lived, have maybe even had moments of living it ourselves. Remember him who himself remembers us as he promised to remember the thief who died beside him. To have faith is to remember and wait, and to wait in hope is to have what we hope for already begin to come true in us through our hoping. Praise him.” (A Room Called Remember, Harper and Row, 1984)

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