Shuck and Jive

Monday, March 29, 2010

Heresies for Holy Week: Day 1

I am thinking up some blasphemous things to post for Holy Week.

One of the ablest truth tellers and most creative blasphemers is Olive Ann Burns. In every congregation I have served I have quoted this piece during one of my Easter sermons.

Since I already presented this in my current congregation, I won't this year. But I post it here as one of my favorite heresies. This is from the novel,
Cold Sassy Tree.

In this scene, young Will Tweedy is talking to his grandpa about theological matters. Grandpa speaks first:

“We held church up at the house this morning.”


“I was the preacher, Miss Love was the pi-ana player, and the both of us made up the congregation. Hit was a real nice service.” He enjoyed seeing I was confused. “Wish you’d a-been there, son. We sang us some hymns, after which I talked to the Lord a while, tellin’ Him bout the week, and I then preached a sermon. Tell you the truth, I think it upset Miss Love.”


“I didn’t have no words thought out, you know, so I jest commenced sayin’ thangs I been a-thinkin’ on lately—about the Virgin Birth and Resurrection and all like thet. I said don’t any a-them thangs matter. Well, Miss Love like to had a fit. Said she warn’t raised to think like thet. I said I warn’t neither, but thet didn’t keep me from thinkin’, and I ast her do Methodists interrupt and argue with the preacher or do they sit and listen to what he’s got to say.”

“Gosh, Grandpa. You mean you don’t think Jesus rose from the dead?”

“I’m a-sayin’ thet did He or didn’t He ain’t important, son. What’s important is thet when the spirit a-Jesus Christ come down on them disciples later, they quit settin’ round a-moanin’ and a-tremblin’, and got to work. They warn’t scairt no more, and the words they spoke had fire in’m. Compared to a miracle like thet, Jesus rollin’ back a dang rock and flyin’ off to Heaven ain’t nothin’.”

“What did Miss Love say to that, Grandpa?” I was real excited.

“Nothin’. I didn’t let her interrupt me agin. I said thet same miracle is still a-happenin’, right here in Cold Sassy, in July of nineteen aught-six. A crippled person or a invalid, or the meanest thief or the most despairin’ misfit, why, if’n he can ketch aholt of the spirit of Jesus Christ, he can quite bein’ scairt and be like risin’ up from the dead. Once his soul gits cured, no matter what his body’s like, why, he can start a new life. Well, next I preached about the Virgin Birth. To my thinkin’, the birth ain’t the dang miracle. Hit’s the fact thet a boy like Jesus was born to a mama who could leave Him be. Well, and then I talked to Miss Love bout Eternal Life. As you know, son, jest believin’ we go’n live forever in the next world don’t make it so—or not so.”

I felt awful. “Grandpa, you don’t think Granny’s gone to Heaven? She ain’t Up There waitin’ on us to come?”

“I like to think so, son. If’n they is a Heaven, she’s Up There, I know thet,” he said softly. Then he laughed and slapped his hand on Satan’s rump. “Ain’t but one way to find out if she is or ain’t, though. And I’m not thet curious.” He sighed, spat, and said, “Havin’ faith means it’s all right either way, son. ‘The Lord is my shepherd’ means I trust Him. Whatever happens in this life or the next, and even if they ain't a life after this’n, God planned it. So why wouldn’t it be all right?” He looked dead serious, then all of a sudden laughed again. “You know, if’n I was a real preacher, Will Tweedy, wouldn’t nobody come to my church.”

“I would, Grandpa.” pp. 187-9


  1. Oh, Honey, I'm linkin' this to My Facebook page. I know some folks that need to read it. I needed to and now I have, and need to share! Thanks. I'm getting the book too. Yes, I know, I'm behind on some things.

  2. That is GREAT! I want to read that book.

  3. Is this the same granpa (it's a grandpa, isn't it?) that frequently begins conversations with his grandchildren with a question from the Shorter Catechism? Cold Sassy Tree was my introduction to the Shorter Catechism.

  4. Introduction to a document I still find fascinating, but I'll take the one in the prayer book over it any day.