In these cold and gray days of January I am focused on preparing to preach and teach at an event for new pastors in their first call. This annual retreat is called “The Leadership Guild for First Call” and I have had the opportunity to participate as chaplain, workshop leader, and preacher for a number of years. In 2016 the event will take place during the final week of January at a retreat center in Hartford, CT.
One of the things that I stress in the “preaching workshops” is the importance of recognizing and naming how often God feels absent for both our listeners and ourselves. No one speaks to this experience of the absence of God more profoundly then the author, Frederick Buechner. Today I came across this challenging quote that I think reflects the reality of living a faithful life.
“If you tell me Christian commitment is a kind of thing that has happened to you once and for all like some kind of spiritual plastic surgery, I say go, go, you’re either pulling the wool over your own eyes or trying to pull it over mine. Every morning you should wake up in your bed and ask yourself: “Can I believe it all again today?” No, better still, don’t ask it till after you’ve read The New York Times, till after you’ve studied that daily record of the world’s brokenness and corruption, which should always stand side by side with your Bible. Then ask yourself if you can believe in the Gospel of Jesus Christ again for that particular day. If your answer’s always Yes, then you probably don’t know what believing means. At least five times out of ten the answer should be No because the No is as important as the Yes, maybe more so. The No is what proves you’re human in case you should ever doubt it. And then if some morning the answer happens to be really Yes, it should be a Yes that’s choked with confession and tears and …great laughter.” [Frederick Buechner, The Return of Ansel Gibbs, 303]