Thursday, May 18, 2006

More Buechner

Frederick Buechner has a great little book called Peculiar Treausres: A Biblical Who's Who. Imagine a dark twist on a Sunday School primer. That's Peculiar Treasures. It goes through the characters of the Bible in alphabetical order. Here are a couple for you:

He let the Times fall to the carpet beside him. It was the usual recital - a new tax plan, the danger of oral contraceptives to women over forty, the mayor's special committee on child abuse. He pushed his glasses back on his forehead and with his thumb and forefinger massaged the loose flesh under his eyes. Through the club window he could see a woman in slacks waiting for a bus, a boy with a pony tail walking a dog. Sombody had the TV on in another room, and he could hear the rise and fall of canned laughter. He lit a cigarette and let the smoke drift out of his mouth without exhaling it. The city sky was turning brown with the approach of dusk. Then suddenly, as if it has been only yesterday, he remembered Eden.

The leopard...the starling...the rose - he rememberd giving each its name, remembered the green river, the shy, green girl. He could no longer remember why it was he had felt compelled to leave it except that it had something to do with asserting his independence. Beyond that, he had only the dim sense that somehow a terrible injustice had been done, or possibly a terrible justice.

He saw the flame of what must have been the sunset flash like a sword in the upper story windows across the street. When the old steward brought him his third martini, he called him Pete. Actually, his name was Angelo.

(Genesis 2-3)

There's something a little sad about seeing anybody for the last time, even somebody you were never particularly crazy about to begin with. Agrippa, for instance. He was the last of the Herods and after him that rather unsavory dynasty came to an end.

When Saint Paul was on his way to Rome to stand trial, King Agrippa granted him a preliminary hearing, and Paul, who was seldom at a loss for words, put up a strong defense. He described how on the road to Damascus he had come to believe Jesus was the Messiah and how all he had been doing since was trying to persuade other people to believe he was right. He said the fact the Jews were out to get him showed only that they didn't understand their own scriptures because the whole thing was right there including the prediction that the Messiah would suffer and rise from the dead just the way Jesus had.

After he finished, Agrippa came out with the only remark he ever made that has gone down in history. "Almost thou persuadest me to become a Christian," he said (Acts 26:28).

Almost is apt to be a sad word under the best of circumstances, and here, on the lips of the last of his line the last time you see him it has a special poignance. If only Paul had been a little more eloquent. If only Agrippa had been a little more receptive, a little braver, a little crazier. If only God weren't such a stickler for letting people make up their own minds without coercing them. But things are what they are, and almost is the closest Agrippa ever got to what might have changed his life. It's sad enough to miss the boat at all, but to miss it by inces, with a sainnt right there to hand you aboard, is sadder still.

(Acts 26:1-28 KJV)

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