Today Day1.org features “The Seagull and the Rainbow” right beside Frederick Buechner, whose writings influenced me as a young preacher and pastor.
Thanks to Peter Wallace of Day1 for putting the student next to a man he unconsciously aspired to be. I’m older now . . . and the distant iconic mentor who had no reason to know his mentee’s name is older still but no less alive to faith and life!
Years ago the Council of Churches in Cincinnati invited a Canadian publisher to publish “The Cincinnati Prayer Book,” a collection of prayers for the year by Cincinnati religious leaders. I was Pastor of Knox Presbyterian Church at the time. The publisher asked whether I would be interested in publishing a collection of sermons.
I recall the conversation in my office as if it were yesterday. I thought I smelled a rat.
“Are you a vanity press?” I asked.
They assurance me they were not. “The Startling Kindness of God” moved forward, including an endorsement from Frederick Buechner. But Fred’s letter to me included a private comment that changed how I preached and wrote. The sermons were good, he said, followed by a devastating “but”: “but I find them rather bloodless. I want to see some of your blood in them.”
I learned laster that he was working on Listening to Your Life. Reading my sermons, he seemed to sense I was not listening to mine. I wasn’t.
When the final contract appeared, the publisher required that I sell 300 copies of the sermon collection. I tore up the contract. The bloodless sermons are in a box in my closet, wondering why they were never published.
I have no reason to believe Fred Buechner has any recollection of that or that he remembers my name. But his combination of affirmation and warning began to change the way I preach and write. To appear next to Frederick Buechner today is a serendipitous occasion of joy and thanks. Thank you, Fred. I’m holding out a goldfish after all these years.
Thank you, Peter, for posting “The Seagull and the Rainbow” on Day1.
- Gordon C. Stewart, May 20, 2017, Chaska, MN.