Jeffrey Munroe on Five Books for Frederick Buechner Beginners

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The Sacred Journey: A Memoir of Early Days

Frederick Buechner is the father of today’s spiritual memoir movement, and this is the book that started the trend. Instead of writing a traditional memoir that traced his rise as a writer, Buechner dove into his inner life and wrote about the events that led to his unlikely embrace of Christianity at age 27. Buechner’s conviction is that God speaks directly into our personal lives, and this memoir is the first in a series where Buechner demonstrates how listening to your life reveals the “subterranean presence of grace” in each of our sacred journeys.

Godric: A Novel

Buechner creates an epic story from the few facts known about an obscure 12th-century saint, a pirate and adventurer who spent the second half of his life in seclusion as a holy hermit. Saint Godric is tortured by his sins, and the novel’s plot is driven by the question, “What sort of sin would send someone into severe asceticism for 50 years?” Buechner’s story reveals a life plagued by “post-conversion” sin, making Godric’s ancient struggles timeless and real. Rich and nuanced, Godric was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in fiction in 1981.

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

Originally delivered in 1976 as part of Yale Divinity School’s Lyman Beecher Lectures on preaching, this book is a tour de force. Although the gospel is bad news before it is good news, most preachers give in to temptation and skip quickly to the good. Woe to those not brave enough to tell the dark truths, including our experience of the absence of God. In the end, though, the gospel is indeed great news—a laugh-out-loud comedy and, more than that, a happily-ever-after fairy tale full of magic and mystery too good not to be true.

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Source: Christianity Today