Stanley Hauerwas’s commentary on Matthew in the SCM Theological Commentary on the Bible series. This will shock some of you, I’m sure, but I’ve never read any of his work before, beyond a couple of book reviews and what I’ve read on others’ blogs. There’s some good stuff in the chapter on Matthew 13. Here’s one interesting quotation in particular:
The church in America [and, I dare say, in much of the Westernised world] simply is not a soil capable of growing deep roots. It may seem odd that wealth makes it impossible to grow the word. Wealth, we assume, should create the power necessary to do much good. But wealth stills the imagination because we are not forced, as the disciples of Jesus were forced, to be an alternative to the world that only necessity can create. Possessed by possessions, we desire to act in the world, often on behalf of the poor, without having to lose our possessions. . . . A church that is shrinking in membership may actually be a church in which the soil of the gospel is being prepared in which deeper roots are possible.Stanley Hauerwas, Matthew. SCM Theological Commentary on the Bible (London: SCM Press, 2006), p. 130
And here’s another (lengthy) quotation, which partially relates to the doctrine of providence:
|an image of Jesus|
We do know, like those in his hometown, that our familiarity with Jesus can make it impossible for us to recognize him when he comes to us thirsty, a stranger, naked, or a prisoner. We are burdened by our images of Jesus, none more destructive that the Jesus who has nothing better to do than to love us, to help us love our families, and to care for those less fortunate than ourselves. In Matthew’s gospel we can catch only faint glimpses of that Jesus. So the question remains for us whether we would provide hospitality to the Jesus who seems to have better things to do than satisfy our needs.
Jesus observes . . . that “prophets are not without honor except in their own country and in their own house.” Accordingly, Jesus places himself in the great line of Israel’s prophets who were rejected by those whom it was their task to serve as prophets. . . . Jesus is the end of prophecy because he is God’s word whom the prophets have said was to come. For him to be without honor in his own country, in his own home city, therefore, is not just another rejection of an idealist. It is the rejection of the one who alone is
able to save Israel.His rejection, moreover, is providential. What often appears as a disaster in the Old Testament retrospectively is providence. . . . Jesus is rejected by his own, but that rejection allows time for the Gentiles to be brought into the covenant (Rom. 9–11). Such judgments cannot be made prospectively as if we could anticipate God’s providential care, but retrospectively they can be a form of faithfulness.Hauerwas, Matthew, pp. 135-6
That last sentence especially stands out to me. I wonder if it’s the necessary corrective to the possible triumphalism Natan Mladin detected in the quotation from Reinhold Bernhardt I posted last week. With Bernhardt, we can be ‘certain’ that God is present and active, and objectively so – but, with Hauerwas, our first-person faith-perspective recognition of this objective divine presence and activity can only happen in hindsight, and after much reflection.