In particular you will be called to be present to your people when their lives are in crisis. Do not be surprised, however, because you have been present at such times those to whom you have been present will find it difficult to love you. Because you are a priest you will be welcomed by people even when they are without protection and have no way to disguise their vulnerability. In the midst of the crisis you will be loved, or at least admired, for your presence and care. But after the crisis is over you will discover the very intimacy established by the crisis between you and those to whom you were present now means they fear what you know of them. You have been allowed to see truthfully who they are which will often mean that they want as much distance from you as they can get.
To sustain a community capable of having the lies that constitute our lives exposed, to sustain the practice of speaking the truth from the heart requires, as our Psalmist suggests, requires the creation of a people who do not slander one another. Rather they are people with a genius for friendship refusing to do evil to their friends. Nor do they reproach their neighbors because they honor all who fear the Lord. They stand by their oath even when it is not to their advantage, and they do not lend money at interest or take bribes against the innocent. The Psalmist seems to suggest these are the necessary conditions for a community of trust because without trust we are incapable of being truthful about ourselves. And if we are incapable of being truthful to ourselves we will eventually discover that we cannot be truthful to one another.
-Stanley Hauerwas, “Because It Is True”, A Commencement Sermon at Seminary of the Southwest (2012).
This is the best thing directed to pastors (though, in truth, to all Christians) I’ve read in a long time. Hauerwas’ insights into the particular temptations of the pastoral vocation are keen and his vision for a truth-telling community is especially hopeful. Our young church is just beginning to see the seeming impossibility of something as simple as regularly telling the truth to each other. In this sermon Hauweras once again points to Jesus as the only hope for such truth-telling: “Only in the person of Christ are we encountered by the one who can unmask our illusions without utterly destroying us.”