How are we to understand this? What is it that is being spoken? To whom is it addressed, and how shall it be heard? These are questions that need first be asked before any explaining and evaluation can take place.
Is it the preacher, that balding man in white who hosts a wine and crackers party every Sunday, who is to hold our attention? I think not, for the preacher has already been identified as the lonely spirit in the pulpit, the despairing teacher behind the desk, the vagabond with the split lip. We know the preacher, know him well enough to pass him over without a glance as continue on with our meritous lives.
Is it the truth, then, that moving target of a thousand claimants and accusations, on which we should focus our analytic eye? No, for the truth has already be dissected and examined and found to be empty, the Zen nothingness which hides in its conspicuousness and is made manifest only through the concealment which gives it being. We know the truth, know it sufficiently well to ignore it when selling our quota of Tupperware to a beaten woman who doesn't need housewares half as much as a home.
Surely the telling, then, the tolling and controlling bells which lead us through a manhic technological existence, is the key concept precursing enlightenment? Wrong again, for this age excels at nothing if not telling and telecommunicating ideas through wires, along highways and seacoasts, etched in the sky and pulsing silently through the atmosphere. "Invisible airwaves crackle with life / My antenna bristle with the energy...it echos with the sounds of salesmen." We've been told time and time again, often enough that we've erected automated defense mechanisms to filter out unsolicited telling.
Which does, however, point us to the heart of the sentence. To what does Buechner truly impel us? Look at the imperative verb, read the unwritten subject, "[You] let the preacher tell the truth." Let him tell. You let. Allow, permit, open yourself to receive his message. For preachers we have aplenty, sightful souls with frightfully astute visions of the world, and they are eager to report what they have seen. All that is needed is an audience willing to open its mind to new perspectives. But every telling is a dialogue between two parties, and requires that you let yourself be brought into the light of the truth by the preacher's guiding words.
Cases in point:
Ray Kinsella was a man willing to let the preacher tell. He never saw the preacher, never had a chance to ask for his credentials--but he listened all the same. Little Sally in "The Adventures of Baron Munchousen" was another pupil who was willing to listen to some pretty outrageous stories which just happened to be true. From the other angle, Billy Pilgrim was a preacher who first encountered resistence when he announced to the world that he had "become unstuck in time," but eventually found a congregation of listeners open to his sermon. Poor Haze Motes grew so frustrated at his inability to find an audience interested in his truth that he lost sight of the light completely and gave up preaching.
Loren Eiseley almost missed his chance at letting the preacher tell. He walked along the shore, met the Thrower, heard his spiel and almost let his scientific background close his mind to the truth that was told. Oh what tragedy, had rationality won that day! But the mystique of the clouded eye chased him through day and dream until he did open himself, did let himself be pulled into a new manner of being. Marlow also fought to resist the smeltering glare of unfiltered truth as he steamed slowly into the "Heart of Darkness," but could not close himself to the terrible majesty of Kuntz's (sp?) dying sigh. In "Revelation," the old "warthog from hell" defied man and God alike to avoid the harsh truth being thrust at her. And finally, little Ingmar fights tooth and nail against the sad fact of his dog's death, before letting himself be brought to the truth that people and pets die, even the ones we love.
When Mrs. Pilgrim hears of Billy's injury, she is suddenly struck by the immense need for him she has or thinks she has. Her world-view is shattered; all that was safe is jeopardized, all that was known is teetering on the brink of the unknowable. The viewer is struck by the utter disregard she displays for common traffic law as she barrels and weaves toward the hospital. (Jewish sideliners were no doubt similarly struck by the strange disregard Jesus displayed for mosaic law as he preached of love and desperation.) As the veils of truth are lifted in those few moments of crystal clairity we all experience in our lives, the significance of rules and laws begin to plumet in comparision. Interestingly enough, Maude's driving was likewise unpredicatable from the moment her character was introduced, implying perhaps that the deeper one sees into life, the less one is apt to play the little games we've constructed to give life meaning--because life already has meaning, is meaning, is in itself the ultimate justification for living.
We live within a world cast of lies and lures, and are blessed to encounter the rare soul who has a true tale to tell. Do not allow such a gift to pass unheard. Let the preacher tell the truth, "that beauty might not pass utterly from the Earth." (Donaldson)