The Gospel as Fairy tale
In 1977, Frederick Buechner wrote a book entitled Telling the Truth: The Gospel as Tragedy, Comedy, and Fairy Tale. I came across it this week and was especially drawn to the gospel as fairy tale. Buechner writes:
“There is no less danger and darkness in the Gospel as there is in the Brothers Grimm, but beyond and above there is the joy of it, this tale of light breaking into the world that not even darkness can overcome. That is the Gospel, this meeting of darkness and light and the final victory of light…. The crucial difference from all other fairy tales…is the claim made for it that it is true, that it not only happened once upon a time but has kept on happening ever since and is happening still…. Once upon a time is this time, now….”
I have been thinking more and more that the disease that has infected our country is not only Covid 19, but also despair. Too often we think the way things are is the way things will be, and so we accommodate ourselves. Sometimes we find ourselves ignoring what we cannot abide, or diverting our attention with the 1,000 programs now available on television, which means we forget God’s vision and God’s promises for this world, or worse, believing we are the righteous and those who disagree with us are the enemy.
If “once upon a time is now,” then anything can happen. Perhaps instead of avoiding chocolate for Lent, we might avoid cynicism and despair. As the poet George Herbert wrote: “Away distrust. My God hath promised and he is just.”
How do we move away from distrust and deepen our faith? We start where we are and do what we can now. This Lent, I have lengthened my prayer list considerably. I have added the people I have categorized with a one-dimensional label. I am not praying for them. I am praying for God to enlarge my vision and to take away my distrust. I am praying for the Holy Spirit to move me out of melodrama and into a narrative that is more of a 360 view of my fellow travelers in this vale of soul making. This especially means I make a list of the politicians I disagree with and frankly look down upon. I am praying that I see them as human beings and praying that they widen their concerns for all God’s people. Most of all, I am praying be released from melodrama and instead to have a glimpse of this world as fairy tale where anything can happen.
If we believe in resurrection, then we must believe in a new world here and now, and we must pray for it, and we must also widen our gaze so that God might use us to help usher it in.
Once upon a time is this time now.
Bishop Porter Taylor