Yes, how interesting that one of the world’s most important Christian Theologians after 30 years of writing was surprised to find himself confessing that of all he learned from his memoirs, the most prominent and important thing was the he is a Christian. I found great comfort in Hauerwas’s discovery of himself as much of his work is such a hard and fast critique of what it means to be a Christian – a definition which he himself often fails to live up to – that I often find myself second guessing my own Christianity. And so to hear Hauerwas admit his own struggle and surprise was a comfort for me. But what is even more of a delight for me was that it took Hauerwas the painstaking effort of recalling his life’s story to learn why he can call himself a Christian today. It was moments of grace and gracelessness. There was a failed marriage followed by a beautiful marriage. He faced constant disappointment in the church coupled with even greater joy in the church. And very late in his career it was his discovery of the prayer filled life, which shed great light on the prior absence of prayer in his life. Finally it all came down to one specific prayer prayed by his mother.
Stanley Hauerwas’s mother prayed the prayer of Hannah – mother of Samuel – found in the first and second chapters of 1 Samuel. Like Hannah, Hauerwas’s mother was childless and wanted nothing more than to have a child and so she prayed that if God bless her with a child she would dedicate him to God’s service. What a powerful voice of prayer his mother must have held as if she channeled the very voice and Spirit of Hannah herself. My point in telling you this story is to reinforce the notion I have that we all have stories of “Why” underneath the “What” we do in the world. Our stories of “Why” might be more appropriately considered moments of grace; grace upon grace, throughout our lives. I’ll never forget when I was leaving Lake Louise High School Camp for the last time in my life as a camper – one counselor pulled me aside and said “God has great plans for you, Matt.” I remembered those words the day the Bishop laid her hands on me at the 2013 at Annual Conference and said, “Take thou authority...”
In preaching this sermon series, “What’s your why?” and in teaching the corresponding class I have been delighted to watch members of the congregation have similar moments of discovery; not so much that they are Christian rather, that they are Christians with powerful stories of grace undergirding even more powerful discoveries of how they are going to distribute those experiences of grace into the world. All of this leads me to understand something I had never considered prior to this series which is that we may never realize our stories of “Why” and “What” what we are to do with those stories until we, in Parker Palmer’s words, “let our life speak.” And that might be among the most courageous of acts any of us undertake. I certainly think that many members of the “What’s Your Why?” class may attest to how frightening an experience it is to share one’s life stories with the intention of discovering how God is planning on working those stories into a new story of ministry. But even greater than the fear is the liberation that comes when a person has the audacity to finally, after years of suppressing that which has always been within, confess that “The God of Jesus Christ is calling me to…”
I guess what I am trying to say in conclusion to this “What’s Your Why?” series is to simply let your life speak. God has been working in your life from the moment you were conceived and has been weaving each and every story together empowering you all the while to tell the story. Speak it aloud for others to hear. Let the words role off your tongue and allow yourself to be surprised by the words you speak. Be that grace for the world, which God has been for you. It will take an act of courage and it will be frightening but it will be equally liberating when you can say, “This is my story and this is what God has invite me to do.”