Be Silent And Know

From “Telling the Truth:
The Gospel as Tragedy, Comedy, and Fairy Tale”
by Frederick Buechner, b.1926

The preaching of the Gospel is a telling of the truth or the putting of a sort of frame of words around the silence that is truth because truth in the sense of fullness, of the way things are, can at best be only pointed to by the language of poetry (of metaphor, image, symbol) as it is used in the prophets of the Old Testament and elsewhere. Before the Gospel is a word, it is a silence, a kind of presenting of life itself so that we see it not for what at various times we call it (meaningless or meaningful, absurd, beautiful) but for what it truly is in all its complexity, simplicity, mystery. The silence of Jesus in answer to Pilate’s question about truth seems such a presenting as does also in a way the silence of the television news with the sound turned off (the real news is what we see and feel, not what Walter Cronkite tells us) or the silence the Psalmist means when he says, “Be silent and know that I am God.” In each case it is a silence that demands to be heard because it is a presented silence, and the preacher must somehow himself present this silence and mystery of truth by speaking what he feels, not what he ought to say, by speaking forth not only the light and the hope of it but the darkness as well, all of it, because the Gospel has to do with all of it. Since words are his chief instrument, words are what he chiefly has to use but remembering always that the silence that his words frame (the silence that his words are born out of and that his words break and that his words are swallowed up by) may well convey the mystery of truth better than the words themselves can just as the empty space inside a church may well convey better than all the art and architecture of a church the mystery of that in which we live and move and have our being. We put frames of words around silence and shells of stone and wood around emptiness, but it is the silence, the emptiness themselves, that finally matter and out of which the Gospel comes as word.

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