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The Rev. Frederick Buechner The Rev. Frederick Buechner
The Rev. Frederick Buechner is an ordained Presbyterian minister and author of numerous bestselling books and novels. Visit www.FrederickBuechner.com

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Frederick Buechner Center


Weekly Sermon Illustration: Turn the Other Cheek

February 11, 2019

In our blog post every Monday we select a reading from the Revised Common Lectionary for the upcoming Sunday, and pair it with a Frederick Buechner reading on the same topic.

Next Sunday we will celebrate the Seventh Sunday after the Epiphany.  Here is this week's reading from the gospel of Luke:

Luke 6:27-29

"But I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt.

The following excerpt is from the novel The Seasons' Difference.

In her absence, Sam, Lundrigan and Dr. Lavender had arisen and, unwilling to disturb Cowley, who remained kneeling on the hillside, by either calling out to her or going to get her, simply awaited her together in silence. As soon as she had turned around, Sam beckoned her to come, but, although her impulse was also to avoid at any cost an encounter now with Peter, she forced herself to stop by him on her way down to join the others. The vividness of the sunset, which had by now enflamed all of the sky before him, reflected as ruddy a cast upon his face and forehead as though he had been fiercely struck. Although she stood directly beside him, he gave no sign of having noticed her approach; and so, timorously and with an uneasy smile, she laid her hand upon his shoulder and softly called his name. As a child she had once followed out of a crowded room a man whom she thought, from the familiar coat he wore, to be her father, only to discover when she had, after walking some little distance with him, pulled at the familiar sleeve to attract his attention, that it was, instead, a stranger she accosted. All the shock of that discovery returned to her now as Peter glanced up towards her, and she withdrew her hand from his shoulder. Would they, he asked her in tones that acknowledged no background of sympathy between the two of them, return home without him. He would come later. And that was all. She was unable to muster enough presence even to answer him and continued down the hill without once looking back. They left him behind as he had asked and started, the four of them, to walk back the way they had come.

"Oh Cowley," Lundrigan said, the grass going flick, flick against his faintly pointed shoes, "Cowley the love-lost and Christ-bescrewed," and he glanced around him, smiling with only half of his dry mouth and hoping to have sprung the anger of at least one of his listeners, it did not matter which one, because anger was something he could deal with; but he saw that he had sprung nothing and so repeated what he had said, scuffing an emphasis out of the ground he walked. "Cowley the Christ-bescrewed, the love-lost." And damnation, he thought, upon whoever remained unmoved by epithets prepared, as prophecies, in advance.

"He'll only turn the other cheek you know, Richard," Sam said with maddening mildness, "because that's what the book says, the book he takes along to eat when he comes out here reading his apple."

"What can you know when you slept through the whole thing!" He had spoken sharply and continued quickly upon it, correcting his tone lest the sharpness be taken for a defense of Cowley, a protest against sleeping through what Cowley had bid them never forget. "Of course he'll turn the other cheek, book or no book, because it's one devil of a lot pleasanter than having the same one slapped twice." That was good, and he let a little silence frame it.


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