“We must walk up not worn out with misery but full of Christ”

Thursday is for Discipleship

Old John Updike
Old John Updike
Young John Updike
Young John Updike

I confess that I have never read any of John Updike’s works, save an essay or two. I have been intrigued by his books nevertheless. For me it started in a visit to a Christian bookstore (remember those?) in 1975. I saw Rabbit Run on a shelf and thought, “Why would that be here?” What I had heard of Updike and the presence of his novel didn’t make sense to me. 

But Updike was a complex man and his writing is multilayered. Earlier this week, Michael Frost posted a quote from Updike’s historic and critically acclaimed novel, the very one I saw in 1975. 

Pastors and theologians today could still learn a great deal from Updike’s fiction. Just think of the Lutheran pastor Fritz Kruppenbach in Rabbit, Run (1960), a deeply Barthian minister who utters this thunderous denouncement of pastoral work – in conversation with another minister, he asks:

“Do you think this is your job, to meddle in these people’s lives? I know what they teach you at seminary now: this psychology and that. But I don’t agree with it. You think now your job is to be an unpaid doctor, to run around and plug up holes and make everything smooth. I don’t think that. I don’t think that’s your job…. I say you don’t know what your role is or you’d be home locked in prayer…. In running back and forth you run away from the duty given you by God, to make your faith powerful…. When on Sunday morning, then, when you go out before their faces, we must walk up not worn out with misery but full of Christ, hot with Christ, on fire: burn them with the force of our belief. This is why they come; why else would they pay us? Anything else we can do and say anyone can do and say. They have doctors and lawyers for that…. Make no mistake. Now I’m serious. Make no mistake. There is nothing but Christ for us. All the rest, all this decency and busyness, is nothing. It is Devil’s work.”

I think I need to read me some John Updike. 


3 thoughts on ““We must walk up not worn out with misery but full of Christ”

  1. Updike is from Reading! His books describe the city, suburbs and rural areas. The John Updike Society had their every-four-years conference here last week. It’s always here. His first home is now the HDQ of the Society. A friend of mine had him as a teacher in high school (teaching business!), when in frustration John threw a typewriter out of a second story classroom. He didn’t teach very long.

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