Eighteen sermons and occasional essays: all smooth, intense, sentimental exercises in liberal Christianity. Buechner is an ordained Presbyterian minister and novelist-freelancer who often seems to be carried away by his own pop-lyrical cadences: ""Or God is a poet, say, searching for the right word. Tries Noah, but Noah is a drinking man, and tries Abraham, but Abraham is a little too Mesopotamian with all those wives and whiskers. Tries Moses, but Moses himself is trying too hard""; and so on, down through David, Elisha, and John the Baptist, en route to the familiar Johannine theme that only Jesus the Word fully expresses the mind of God. Fair enough, but while Buechner can ring the rhetorical changes on scripture, he's not very good at probing its difficulties. Facing them (miracles, the Incarnation, the Resurrection, eternal life, etc.), he confesses his own rational perplexity and then bespreads the scene with a benign haze. The story of the marriage feast at Cana is like a dream, a fairy tale--but did that water actually turn into wine? Buechner, stumped, notes brightly that there's a near-miraculous element in every wedding. The claim of the Apostles' Creed that Christ descended into hell has a strongly mythological ring to it, ""and yet in a way is maybe truer to life. . . than any other words the Creed contains."" Altogether, Buechner the praiser of Norman Rockwell and worshipper of Anthony Trollope, the soft-hearted existentialist bidding us to ""think of Jesus as Charlie Chaplin,"" makes a pleasant religious raconteur but a feeble preacher.