Wendell Berry for the Young or the Restless

Chris —  June 17, 2013

The Red Brick Church in Stillman ValleyReading Wendell Berry is good therapy for those who are restless. Consider Burley Coulter’s wisdom:

Uncle Burley said hills always looked blue when you were far away from them. That was a pretty color for hills; the little houses and barns and fields looked so neat and quiet tucked against them. It made you want to be close to them. But he said that when you got close they were like the hills you’d left, and when you looked back your own hills were blue and you wanted to go back again. He said he reckoned a man could wear himself out going back and forth.  Wendell Berry in Nathan Coulter.

Most people now are looking for a ‘better place’, which means that a lot of them will end up in a worse one . . . There is no ‘better place’ than this, not in this world.  And it is by the place we’ve got, and our love for it and our keeping of it, that this world is joined to Heaven  (Hannah Coulter, 83).

People are living as if they think they are in a movie.  They are all looking in one direction toward ‘a better place,’ and what they see is no thicker than a screen (Hannah Coulter, 179).

Eugene Peterson adds:

“One thing I have learned under Berry’s tutelage is that it is absurd to resent your place: your place is that without which you could not do your work.  Parish work is every bit as physical as farm work.  It is these people at this time, under these conditions.”  Eugene Peterson, Under the Unpredictable Plant, pages 131.”

“Pastoral work is local: Ninevah.  The difficulty in carrying it out is that we have a universal gospel but distressingly limited by time and space.  We are under command to go into all the world to proclaim the gospel to every creature.  We work under the large rubrics of heaven and hell.  And now we find ourselves in a town of three thousand people on the far edge of Kansas, in which the library is underbudgeted, the radio station plays only country music, the high school football team provides all the celebrities the town can manage, and a covered-dish supper is the high point in congregational life.

It is hard for a person who has been schooled in the urgencies of apocalyptic and with an imagination furnished with saints and angels to live in this town very long and take part in its conversations without getting a little impatient, growing pretty bored, and wondering if it wasn’t an impulsive mistake to abandon that ship going to Tarshish.

We start dreaming of greener pastures.  We preach BIG IDEA sermons.  Our voices take on a certain stridency as our anger and disappointment at being stuck in this place begin to leak into our discourse.”  Eugene Peterson, Under the Unpredictable Plant, pages 128-129.”

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