With an implied smile, my feminist clergy wife inscribed "You know this a gift of love" as she gave me Stanley Hauerwas' Hannah's Child: A Theologian's Memoir as a Father's Day gift back in June. She knew that since reading his A Peaceable Kingdom more than two decades ago, I have been in a good-natured argument with his writings. I have been an attorney in public [Caesar's] service for almost twenty-five years and I have sought to serve Christ's church for longer still, so my commitment to justice and God's kingdom lived responsibly in this world have kept me in a conversation with him (in my head at least) for years. Stanley was also kind enough to briefly serve on my master's project committee when I was a public policy student at Duke. His hard questions on that committee and in my internal conversations with his words have continually challenged me to strive for faithfulness in following after Jesus—even if he might well challenge the ways that I have resolved them in my life. He reminded me that the church is "to be rather than to have a social ethic" [PK 102] with words such as these:
Jesus directs our attention to the kingdom, but the early followers rightly recognized that to see what the kingdom entailed they must attend to his life, death, and resurrection, for his life reveals to us how God would be sovereign.
In the end it really is about the story of Jesus that I learned in Sunday school. So when on one of my occasional web-surfs onto the Ekklesia Project's website, I found the pamphlet Wordcare: Hauerwas, Language and the Church, edited by Stan Wilson and Kyle Childress, I found myself once seized by words. This time not Stanley Hauerwas' own words, but the words of testimony of those whose lives and ministries to Christ's church had been shaped by Stanley's often colorful and challenging words.
In a few short meditations, fourteen people who love and serve the church and the kingdom testify to the challenge of the gospel conveyed by Hauerwas' words. These are powerful words that Hauerwas' witness has shaped in his long time of service in the academy to the church: Eucharist, Liturgy, Hearing the Word, Truthfulness, Dirty Words, Till the Lightning Falls, Church, The World, Formation, War, Suffering, Stories and Friendship. Engaging Hauerwas has been formative for my theological and vocational development. As I remember how he focused my attention on the story of God's kingdom that comes to us in Jesus of Nazareth, rather than second-order doctrines, these short meditations grip me with gratitude for that powerful witness involving the care of words and the Word.
Thank you, Stanley.
See also Milton Friesen's interview with Stanley Hauerwas about Hannah's Child, in Cardus Audio.