JULY 27, 2020 MONDAY
Dear Church Family,
Certain authors usher me into an experience of God’s presence and grace in a special way. I like humor – when it’s serious – and enlightens ways of seeing differently, lifts the heart, and leaves a smile. It’s subtle, not overwhelming.
In my first class in preaching, Dr. George Buttrick, former pastor of Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church, introduced us to writing from a young man who happened in on Easter Sunday that year, and heard in Buttrick’s sermon, words that redirected his life and vocation to ministry. One short phrase was a bolt of divine lighting for Buechner’s searching soul.
The Frederick Buechner Center now posts short pieces of his writing from severals books. Two are Whistling in the Dark and Beyond Words. I share a recent Buechner “definition” with you. And if you see Magic in a different, lighter and more serious way – check out the “Frederick Buechner Center Quote of the Day.” It’s free.
I hope you’ll enjoy his essay below. In sacred writings of scripture, in the imaginations and gifts of those who read, inwardly digest, and share their gleanings – God is present to us. Like a parable, finding a treasure, God opens new ways of finding and living life in his Kingdom.
MAGIC IS SAYING “ABRACADABRA” and pulling the rabbit out of the hat, is stepping a crack to break your mother’s back, is a dashboard Jesus to prevent smashups. Magic is going to church so you will get to heaven. Magic is using mouthwash so everybody will love you. Magic is the technique of controlling unseen powers and will always work if you do it by the book. Magic is manipulation and says, “My will be done.” Religion is propitiation and says, “Thy will be done.
“Religion is praying, and maybe the prayer will be answered and maybe it won’t, at least not the way you want or when you want and maybe not at all. Even if you do it by the book, religion doesn’t always work, as Jesus pointed out in one of his more somber utterances when he said, “Not everyone who says, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 7:21), the corollary to which would appear to be, “Not everyone who wouldn’t be caught dead saying, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall be blackballed from the kingdom of heaven.” He softened the blow somewhat then by adding that the way to enter the kingdom of heaven is to do the will of his Father in heaven; but when religion claims that it’s always sure what that will is, it’s only bluffing. Magic is always sure.
If security’s what you’re after, try magic. If adventure is what you’re after, try religion. The line between them is notoriously fuzzy.