The Frederick in my song “Closer to the Moon” is Frederick Buechner. I have been so moved by his work in the last couple years that I couldn't help but write him into a song. There is a sermon in his book Secrets in the Dark that probably changed the way I look at all matters of faith. The sermon is called “Message in the Stars” and if I would have been in the room to hear him speak this segment here, you probably would have found me on the floor sobbing.
Part of the inner world of everyone is this sense of emptiness, unease, incompleteness, and I believe that this in itself is a word from God, that this is the sound that God’s voice makes in a world that has explained him away. In such a world, I suspect that maybe God speaks to us most clearly through his silence, his absence, so that we know him best through our missing him.
If you’ve heard me play before you’ve maybe heard me try to quote him and probably fumble all over myself. Because when I think of how deeply I resonate with the way he tells his story, I...lose... my train of thought. I get overwhelmed. I can’t explain it. This morning I was re-reading the introduction to Secrets in the Dark and found myself staring at the page where Frederick (we’re on a first name basis) says this about the sermons he preached at Phillips Exeter Academy:
In sermons like “A Sprig of Hope,” “Message in the Stars,” “The Sign by the Highway,” and “The Face in the Sky” I tried to be as dramatic and vivid as I could without going overboard, to tell a story or set a scene that I hoped would capture their imaginations. I tried not to let them ever see where I was going next, to keep them on their toes, to keep them wondering what on earth I was getting at until suddenly and unexpectedly, if I was lucky, we all of us got there together. I tried to be suggestive, elusive, and unpredictable rather than systematic, dogmatic, and pontifical. I never took it for granted that they believed any of even the most basic affirmations of the Christian faith concerning such matters as God and Jesus, sin and salvation, but always tried to speak to their skepticism and to honor their doubts. I made a point of never urging on them anything I did not believe myself. I was candid about what, like them, I was puzzled by and uncertain of. I tried to be myself. I tried to be honest.
Thank you Frederick, for this.