Shelved the Church Fathers or, Bittersweet Acquisition from a Friend

Greg, The Ex-Reverend, turns 48 today. It seems like we have known each other for more than ten years. Time warps when you near mid-century levels. I am told it only accelerates.

Last week Greg inadvertently let me know he was selling his set of the Church Fathers, 38 volumes. It was not as if he were keeping a secret. He did not know I might be interested. I did not know he was selling. Long story short, the set is now on the shelves in my study. Pristinely kept, the set is a great aesthetic accent and will be a helpful resource I had been looking at acquiring for the past six months.

Books mean something. As I re-shelved hundreds of books to make room in just the right spot for my new set, I ran across books I may never read again. There are other books I keep not for their incredible content, but for the memory of who gave them to me. I remember Brother Justice offering some books to a young preacher boy. Brother Christiansen offered a slew of books when he retired. Others along they way called to say, “Hey, you might be interested in  . . ..” I was.

I have parted with some of these books gathered and given over the past more than 30 years. They have been donated to what will be a Library at Snow Hill. One day we will get these in order along with other donated books and create space for reading and studying.

My new set will fall into the category of books that mean something more than for their content. I will remember where I bought them, from a friend. The story however is a bittersweet story.

Greg has written about his story on his own blog. There is a very lengthy series that is as much memoir as autobiography. He no longer pastors, though I believe he does in markedly different ways than before. He no longer shares my theist commitments, though he like Nietzsche leaves the backdoor open. He no longer reads the Lectionary Texts so that we may share conversations over them. He often reads expressly Christian texts for review, critique, or story. But, he is still friend. And, he knows, a friend I wished still shared my commitments to the Story of Jesus.

Margaret Wheatley wrote, Turning to One Another. One significant premise underlying her book is that if we would return to the art of conversation, we may change the world. Greg and I share conversations nearly every week. He is no adversary. In fact, Greg applauds when Christians get it right, when they look like Jesus. And, he is a satirical, snarky critic when we don’t. His biting words are often misunderstood as angry and angst ridden. We Christians find it hard to suffer the critique from within, much less from without.

The one place Greg finds difficult to abide any longer is the notion of metaphysics. In this sense he is truly, philosophically postmodern. He could have easily opted for post-structuralism, but Wittgenstein has kept him more on the level of vocabulary, its games, meaning, and power.

One day someone will write the story of our friendship. Maybe it will be my girls. Tommie would do quite the job. It will be the telling of the story that for me calls into question the absence of metaphysics. Stories hold power – in any vocabulary, game, meaning, or language. Their re-telling gives them life beyond themselves. For me this human reality cracks the purely material in ways that calls attention for the need for better stories. And, in a move that will not surprise Greg, points to the Story of Jesus.

If by chance you read this on your birthday, Friend, I do hope your day is filled with grace.

 

 

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About the Author
Husband to Patty. Daddy to Kimberly and Tommie. Grandpa Doc to Cohen, Max, Fox, and Marlee. Pastor to Snow Hill Baptist Church. Graduate of Oklahoma Baptist University and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Reading. Photography. Golf. Colorado. Jeeping. Friend. The views and opinions expressed here are my own and should not be construed as representing the corporate views of the church I pastor.