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Telling the Truth: The Gospel as Tragedy, Comedy, and Fairy Tale [Hardcover]

By Frederick Buechner (Author)
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Item description for Telling the Truth: The Gospel as Tragedy, Comedy, and Fairy Tale by Frederick Buechner...

Views the Gospels as reflecting everyday reality in their record of human tragedy, the comedy of God's love, and the fairy tale of transformation and renewal

Publishers Description
Chapter One

Telling the Truth

In January 31, 1872, Henry Ward Beecher traveled to Yale to deliver the first of the Beecher Lectures on preaching, which had been established in memory of his father. His biographer writes:

He had a bad night, not feeling well. Went to his hotel, got his dinner, lay down to take a nap. About two o'clock he got up and began to shave without having been able to get at any plan of the lecture to be delivered within the hour. Just as he had his face lathered and was beginning to strop his razor, the whole thing came out of the clouds and dawned on him. He dropped his razor, seized his pencil, and dashed off the memoranda for it and afterwards cut himself badly, he said, thinking it out.

And well the old pulpiteer might have cut himself with his razor because part of the inner world that his lecture came from, among the clouds that it suddenly. dawned on him out of, was the deep trouble that he was in or the deep trouble that was in him. The gossip about his relationship with the wife of one of his parishioners had left the whispering stage and was beginning to appear more or less directly in print. Compromising letters were being handed around and tearful confessions made. People were taking sides. Charges were being formulated. A public trial for adultery was not far off. It was not just his reputation and career that were in danger but in some measure the church itself-everything he believed in and stood for and had come to Yale to talk about.

So when he stood there looking into the hotel mirror with soap on his face and a razor in his hand, part of what he saw was his own shame and horror, the sight of his own folly, the judgment one canimagine he found even harder to bear than God's, which was his own judgment on himself, because whereas God is merciful, we are none of us very good at showing mercy on ourselves. Henry Ward Beecher cut himself with his razor and wrote out notes for that first Beecher Lecture in blood because, whatever else he was or aspired to be or was famous for being, he was a man of flesh and blood, and so were all the men who over the years traveled to New Haven after him to deliver the same lectures.

Phillips Brooks, Dean Inge, Harry Emerson Fosdick, Reinhold Niebuhr -- the whole distinguished procession. One thinks of them all kissing their wives good-bye, if they had wives to kiss, packing their bags, and setting off to deliver their lectures on preaching, on what it means to preach, on how to preach, on what to preach, on maybe even why to preach at all when sometimes almost anything else seems to be more relevant and make more sense. One thinks of how each of them left his world behind to go to Connecticut and yet at the same time did not leave his world behind because of course no one ever can. You can kiss your family and friends good-bye and put miles between you, but at the same time you carry them with you in your heart, your mind, your stomach, because you do not just live in a world but a world lives in you. You are a world. All of those men were worlds in their time with their whiskers on their chins, some of them, their clean shirts, their steel-rimmed glasses, their freshly polished shoes. As surely as each of them brought a toothbrush with him, he also brought with him his loves and hates, his fears of death and his fears of life, his anxieties, his longings, his pride, his darkdoubts. Each carried his world on his back the way a snail carries his shell, and so did the ones who traveled to New Haven to hear them lecture.

So one thinks of them, too, the hearers as well as the givers of lectures. There were fat ones and thin ones, old ones and young ones, happy ones and sad ones, some bright and some not so bright. They also brought their worlds with them and when they looked in their mirrors saw, if not adulteries of the flesh, then adulteries of the spirit, failures of faith, hope, love, failures of courage. Like Henry Ward Beecher, like all of us, each of them too had bled a little. "All have sinned" (Rom. 3:2.3), Saint Paul says, which is another way of saying it, or all are human, which is another. We have all cut ourselves. We all labor and are heavy laden under the burden of being human or at least of being on the way, we hope, to being human.

The distances between the inner world that each of us is are greater in their way than the distances between the outer worlds of interstellar space, but in another way, the worlds of all of us are also the same world. An occasional bad night, not feeling well. A ten o'clock arrival, a two o'clock nap. The same old face in the mirror day after day. An empty feeling in the pit of the stomach. A little blood. We are all of us in it together, and it is in us all. So if preachers or lecturers are to say anything that really matters to anyone including themselves, they must say it not just to the public part of us that considers interesting thoughts about the Gospel and how to preach it, but to the private, inner part too, to the part of us all where our dreams come from, both our good dreams and our bad dreams, theinner part where thoughts mean less than images, elucidation less than evocation, where our concern is less with how the Gospel is to be preached than with what the Gospel is and what it is to us. They must address themselves to the fullness of who we are and to the emptiness too, the emptiness where grace and peace belong but mostly are not, because terrible as well as wonderful things have happened to us all.

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Item Specifications...

Studio: HarperOne
Pages   97
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 8.55" Width: 5.55" Height: 0.55"
Weight:   0.5 lbs.
Binding  Hardcover
Release Date   May 5, 2009
Publisher   HarperOne
ISBN  0060611561  
ISBN13  9780060611569  
UPC  099455018005  

Availability  4 units.
Availability accurate as of Oct 18, 2017 04:38.
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More About Frederick Buechner

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! Frederick Buechner was born in 1926. The author of more than thirty books, including "Godric," a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, he is one of the most often quoted Christian authors alive today.

Frederick Buechner currently resides in Rupert Putney, in the state of Vermont. Frederick Buechner was born in 1926.

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Product Categories

2Books > Subjects > Nonfiction > Philosophy > General
3Books > Subjects > Nonfiction > Philosophy
4Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Authors, A-Z > ( B ) > Buechner, Frederick
5Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Christian Living > Faith
6Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Clergy > Preaching
8Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Spirituality > Inspirational
9Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality

Christian Product Categories
Books > Theology > Theology & Doctrine > General

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Reviews - What do customers think about Telling the Truth: The Gospel as Tragedy, Comedy, and Fairy Tale?

An arrow toward the truth.  May 12, 2008
This book is a very worthy read. While his style is a bit too abstract for my taste, the author has some good points to make. I really like his main theme, that art, literature, and even the Gospels are not truths themselves, they point us to an understanding of the truth. Of course if you apply this to his own book it leads to some odd causality paradoxes, but it is still something worth thinking about.
Most Excellent  Sep 15, 2007
Frederick Buechner - what else needs to be said. I am currently reading a little bit of this every Sunday morning to my congregation before I begin my sermon. I feel that sometimes the laity doesn't even know the questions to ask the clergy about how they preach the sermon, where it comes from, why that particular slant on a verse or thought.... So far, the readings have been well received. A marvelous book - real, funny, tragic and relavent.
A beautiful presentation of the Gospel  Jul 30, 2007
The title of this book is what caught my attention before I knew anything else about it. I knew that if it offered any defense to its title it would be worth reading. I was not at all disappointed and found its content both rich and colorful and the writing style as excellent as you could ask for. I would highly recommend this book for anyone open to a fuller picture of the gospel and especially to those going into the ministry who will be speaking the gospel--or telling the truth as Buechner presents it.
Written as motivation for preachers, this book is a necessity for all  Mar 28, 2007
Telling the Truth: The Gospel as Tragedy, Comedy, and Fairy Tale muses, like the title says, that the Gospel is equal parts tragedy, comedy and fairy tale and explains that the best way to understand the gospel is to understand it through the truthful experience of one's life. The Gospel is tragedy, Frederick Buechner, the author, explains, because it is bad before it gets better--Christ dies before he is ressurrected. The Gospel is comedy, he says in the weakest section, because of its unexpectedness, how unpredictable it is. The Gospel is fairy tale, he says in a very moving section, because it is so impossible. Thus, he says, preachers should not try to package or dwindle its Message--it truly is impossible. At the same time, it comes forth in our lives--in the tragedy and the comedy--and it is important to show its reality in that way. Using literary and biblical examples, Buechner crafts a reassuring, remarkable book.
A compelling and beautiful book  Jul 17, 2004
I still struggle to understand why on earth this author isn't as widely read, valued, commented and acclaimed as he deserves to be... It is perhaps, as he suggested, because he seems to be "too religious for the irreligious and too secular for the religious". Whatever reasons there may be, few other writers equal the quality of thought and writing of Frederick Buechner on "religious" matters (whatever that means!).

In this little book, Buechner tackles in a brilliant way the vital questions of the significance and the meaning of preaching the gospel, considering it as tragedy, comedy and fairy tale. The result is simply superb: an extraordinary convergence of elegance, good quality writing and fresh spirituality. It's the perfect introduction to his work, along with "The Alphabet of Grace".

Give him the chance to prove his qualities... he will speak to both irreligious and religious...still more, he will haunt you!


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