Learning to say…

Eugene Peterson once told some younger clergy to find a theologian or two to keep company with as they pastor. Allegedly, one of his criteria for choosing someone was that they be dead and of course, if you are going to be a pastor a long time you want to pick somebody who has written a lot. When I first heard this I thought it was pretty sound advice and went about buying Church Dogmatics by Karl Barth (somebody who is both dead and has written more than I might be able to handle in my lifetime). Ideally, I think you are supposed to think with this person, be against this person, struggle with them, curse them, love them, and have them lead you. All things Barth has proved more than capable of doing for me.
And while I still love my Barth, I think I have also picked Stanley Hauerwas to walk with me on this journey. The writing of Stanley Hauerwas always manages to keep me engaged and continually pulls on me. Someone who was interviewing author Marilynn Robinson noted that when confronted with question sometimes she would shrug her shoulders and say “Calvin, again” (John Calvin) as if he was standing in the room. I often feel the same way about this combination of Barth and Hauerwas. While Dr. Hauerwas isn’t dead, he has written quite enough to keep someone engaged for a long time.
One of the reasons I am sure I can’t escape his writing is because of paragraphs like the one below. If you have read Hauerwas this line will hardly appear as revolutionary to you, but since reading it Saturday morning I have turned it over and over in my head. It has caused me to consider if I am dependent with a sigh or without regret, that if knowing this has it opened up room for prayer in my life, have I become capable of seeing the beauty of existence, and what would such a thing mean for us?
• Learning to say “God” requires that I learn to acknowledge that I am a “dependent rational animal.” It may be possible to acknowledge that we are rational dependent animals without learning to say “God,” but to learn to say I am dependent without regret at least creates the space the practice of prayer can occupy. To be human is to be an animal that has learned to pray. Prayer often come only when we have no alternatives left, but prayer may also be the joy that comes from the acknowledgement of the sheer beauty, the absolute contingency, of existence.
o Working with Words, Hauerwas, Stanley. xiii. Wipf and Stock.

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