On the Road with the Archangel

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I like Frederick Buechner, a lot. I've liked his work since Godric and Brendan, when I went out in search of some of his nonfiction.

One of the collateral results of seeing a couple of films this weekend is that we happened by a bookstore that was truly going out of business. It dealt only with remaindered books to start, and now these were 40% off. There's nothing I can resist less than the lure of deeply discounted books, and so we brought home a bunch. Blood Meridian, Black Robe, The Preservationist (a novel about Noah and his Ark), a book of essay by the poet Geoffrey Hill, the most recent book of Joyce Carol Oates literary essays. (Does Oates have temporal lobe epilepsy? Every time I turn around she seems to have two dozen other books out.) But I have digressed.

Buechner's book is a small gem. It is the story of Tobit and the great scorekeeper in the sky and the Archangel Raphael whose main job is to present the prayers offered here on earth in the great throneroom of the sky, and who often shakes with mirth over the misconceptions and misconstructions of the people who do the praying.

The story is faithful to the biblical account of Tobit and gives it weight, substance, and bearing without falling into faux biblical language or off-hand explaining away. And as such it works superbly as a bit of exegesis and an inspiring message about God's love and compassion for all of us. Buechner is a minister in one of the protestant faiths (Presbyterian, I think) and he has an amazing ability to bring out the message that is often hidden in the very terse prose of most of the Bible--God loves us. God is not the great score-keeper. God is not busy trying to smash us like the flies that Tobit squashes with his shoe. He does not delight in our sorrows, nor is he distant a merely allowing things to play out in the course that has been formed. In short, God is love, and his love-letter to us--every word of it, hard as that is to imagine--is the Bible. Every story, no matter how fraught with trial and turmoil is endlessly about His reaching out to us.

And so Buechner makes very clear in this very entertaining small book. If you happen to see it on the remainder shelves or find it at your library, pick it up and spend an hour or two. You'll be glad you did. Highly Recommended.

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Beuchner has been a long time favorite author of mine. Presbyterian, yes. I particularly enjoyed his series of autobiographical books. His ABCs of the faith book leaves something to be desired in regard to his views on homosexuality but otherwise I like his work. Magnificent Defeat is a non fiction classic.



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This page contains a single entry by Steven Riddle published on November 25, 2006 9:02 AM.

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