Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Walter Shurden Discovers Why He Cried in this Chapel

Several years ago Kay and I visited beautiful Callaway Gardens in Pine Mountain, Georgia.

Flowers, trees, grass, butterflies, birds—all dressed in their spring best.

It was an incomparable April day. Stepping high, my life was light and airy.

We walked into the little Gothic chapel in the midst of the woodlands. Beautiful, gorgeous music came from the Moeller pipe organ. Only four other people were present. We sat in silence. We listened. We prayed.

Suddenly, unexpectedly tears formed in my eyes. Then I began to cry. Quickly my crying became uncontrollable sobs. After a couple of minutes of my “where-in-the-world-did-this-come-from” sobbing and not a little of embarrassment, Kay whispered, “We have to go, Buddy.” She led me out of the chapel and away from whatever it was that had churned my soul.

For years I had no idea what happened to me that day in that little chapel, how or why my spring joy birthed such sobs.

Only recently did I get a sliver of insight into that experience. It came in a line from a sermon of William Sloane Coffin, and I thought, “That’s it!”

Coffin: “There are moments of grace in this world so deep and true and painful that tears come to the eye not for grief, but because the universe is so true at that moment.”
(The Collected Sermons of William Sloane Coffin: The Riverside Years, 439.)

Happiness—a universe that was so true at that moment—made me cry.

I want more of that, a happiness that makes you cry, in the time that I have left.

Walter Shurden, Walter B. Shurden’s Preaching Journal, Vol. 2, Number 16, August 2009.

Walter ‘Buddy’ Shurden is Minister at Large, Professor Emeritus of Christianity, Mercer University, Macon, GA, USA.

For his bio and email to request Walter’s monthly journal follow this link. This is only one of many stories with rare insight.

Dr Geoff Pound

Geoff can be contacted by email at geoffpound(at)gmail.com on Facebook and Twitter.

Images: Glimpses of Callaway Gardens and the chapel.