This essay cross-posted from Jesus Needs New PR
I am still working on part three of this series, so in the meantime, I thought I’d post a passage from Frederick Buechner’s sermon Two Stories that a friend just reminded me of, from the same collection – Secrets in the Dark: A Life in Sermons – as the Buechner sermon I mentioned in part two. I realize this means I’ve quoted Buechner four or five times in these posts so far, but one reason I do so is because I count myself among those who say they still call themselves Christians, at least in part, because of the writings of Frederick Buechner, and I’ll do everything within my power to convince others to read his work, especially his sermons and his memoirs – The Sacred Journey, Telling Secrets, and Now and Then are great introductions.
This passage quoted below has something to do with the stories of where we came from and where we are going, of where home is. When I first read it, I was reminded of sermons I’d read and heard recordings of by my great grandfather (like this one) about what it took to be “a real Christian,” the first kind of person in Buechner’s story. And I was a bit surprised at how completely I identified with the second kind of person in the story. Two years later, and I’m still feeling the same way.
The Jehovah’s Witness appears on the doorstep, or somebody who’s gotten religion corners you at a party, and embarrassing questions are asked in an embarrassing language. Have you been born again? Have you accepted Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and savior? And yes, yes, you want to say—half humiliated, half appalled and irritated, torn in a dozen directions at once by the directness and corn of it, tongue-tied. You wouldn’t be caught dead maybe using such language yourself, but oh Jesus, yes, in some sense your answer is and has to be yes, though to be asked it out of the blue that way, by a stranger you’d never have opened the door to if you’d known what he was after, makes the blood run cold. To be reminded that way or any way of the story of Jesus, where you came from, is like having somebody suddenly produce a picture of home in all its homeliness—the barn that needs cleaning, the sagging porch steps, the face in the dusty window—when you’ve traveled a thousand miles and a thousand years from home and are involved in a thousand new and different things. But the story of Jesus is home nonetheless—the barn, the steps, the face. You belong to it. It belongs to you. It is where you came from.