Living Faithfully in the {Disrupted} Everyday

Continuing the conversation from yesterday on the Church and Matthew 16, I wanted to provide some concluding excerpts from Hauerwas’ commentary. Why? Because this is really good stuff and if you went to church today, like I did, these are the kind of truths that need to be confronting us to be a church that is wisely informed and responding to its calling.

Fresh from his encounter with the Pharisees and Sadducees, Jesus warns the disciples to beware of the yeast of the Pharisees. The disciples, particularly as we know them from the gospel of John, do not readily pick up on allusion…The disciples, like many of us, have no ear for language. They try to understand what Jesus says to them in terms of the old age, but their desperation to control the world in which they find themselves results in their failure to grasp the challenge of what Jesus says to them.

Jesus aware of their confusion, confronts them because of their little faith. Their faith is little, it seems, because they have not yet understood how following Jesus must change how we speak and hear.

Jesus then asks, ‘But who do you say that I am?’ Simon answers, “You are the Messiah…” …now for the first time a disciple recognizes that Jesus is the Messiah, the one Israel long expected, the one who alone has the power to free Israel from its enemies. Jesus commends Simon…Jesus declares Simon, like those described in the Beatitudes, blessed.

Simon does not learn that Jesus is the Messiah by some intuitive or mystical mode of knowing. Rather, Simon learns that Jesus is the Messiah because he obeyed Jesus’ commands to be his disciple.

Simon’s recognition of Jesus changes who Simon is. Jesus gives Simon a new name, Peter, the rock. He tells him that “on this rock”he will build his church. Peter becomes the first among the disciples, not because he is the called or because he is the most impressive, but because he has identified Jesus as Messiah.

By making Peter the rock on which the church will be built, Jesus indicates that the church will need to be so built because hell itself will try to destroy what Jesus has established. It is not Peter’s task to make the church safe and secure or to try to insure its existence. Rather, it is Peter’s task to keep the church true to its mission, which is to witness to the Messiah. That witness is called to be holy, requiring our willingness to confront one another if we think we have been sinned against. The church can be a church of peace only by engaging in the practices of confession, penance, and reconciliation as an alternative to violence.

The keys that have been entrusted to Peter are the keys given to the church through which the church is made ever vulnerable to God’s judgment. Peter does not stand apart from the disciples, nor does he stand apart from the church. Rather Peter stands with the church, charged with keeping the church true to its witness to Jesus. Witness, moreover, becomes the source of the unity between Christians.

Peter has been given the office of unity, established through time and across space, to provide the church with the means for us to contend with one another so that the gates of hades will not prevail against us. Peter was not called to “keep the peace,” but rather to insure that the church has the conflicts necessary for its holiness. {In contrast here to the unfaithful shepherds who cry “Peace, peace, where there is no peace.”}

Peter, however, is not ready for [Jesus to go to his death]. Peter, presuming his new status, takes Jesus aside and begins to rebuke him. He seems to think his task is to insure a successful outcome for Jesus’ ministry. {Nay, we never try to do that.}

Therefore, Peter, the rock on whom Jesus will build his church becomes the first to rebuke and betray him…He, on whom the church is to be built, follows our ancestors Adam and Eve in presuming to know better than God what God desires. This is a sobering beginning for the church. The church learns from Peter that our faithfulness begins with the confessin of sin. {When was the last time you heard a call for confession? When was the last time you did the uncomfortable work of confession?} The church that has Peter as the rock on which we stand must also be able to acknowledge that too often we are the first to betray what we have been given. 

We cannot help but be sympathetic with Peter’s failure to recognize Jesus. Incarnation is not an everyday affair. Like Peter, we want Jesus to confirm our presumption that we can understand the way the world works only if we live as if God does does not exist. We do not want the everyday disrupted, but Jesus is the disruption of time necessary if we are to live faithfully in the everyday. 

(Stanley Hauerwas, Commentary on Matthew, 2006)

My prayer is that we will pray for more faith, so that we will have the courage to listen well and live faithfully in response to who we know Jesus to be.

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