The preacher's task, according to Buechner, is "to hold up life to us; by whatever gifts he or she has of imagination, eloquence, simple candor, to create images of life through which we can somehow see into the wordless truth of our lives." We agree.
Buechner contends that the truth of our lives is available to us in the good news of the Gospel. But first, we must hear "the new that is bad before it is good, the word that is tragedy before it is comedy because it strips us bare in order ultimately to clothe us." We agree. And some of the hottest news about the human condition is carried into our lives and consciousness via stories on the TV sets in our homes, via films down the block at a local theater, via paperbacks available at the drugstore, via novels on coffee-tables at our neighbor's house, and via songs on the radio in our car. The preacher is challenged to use this news as a prelude to the Gospel's affirmations.
Whereas nearly everyone is aware of the bad news of our lives, Buechner wonders how many realize that most individuals are desperately seeking something miraculous to believe in. Look at the popularity of do-it-yourself therapies and religious self-transformation kits. And make no mistake about it, they are competing with the Gospel. "Let the preacher stretch our imagination and strain our credulity and make our jaws drop because the sad joke of it is that if he does not, then of all people he is almost the only one left who does not!" This is not to say homily illustrations should be circus stunts. What Buechner is getting at here is that the preacher must be able to see God's graceful activities in the world with fresh eyes and then communicate it with fresh imagery. Again, the artist can be of help.
We live in a Godpossibled world. The preaching and teaching of Jesus was filled with stories and illustrations about God's saving and judging in everyday events. Tossing about on a sea of information, pressures, meetings, depressions, triumphs, headaches, and exhaustions we all need a little grace to guide us.