On the vocabulary of church and baseball
Sometimes in leaning over to speak to the modern world, I fear that we may have fallen in! When, in our sermons, we sought to use our sermons to build a bridge from the old world of the Bible to the new modern world, the traffic was only moving in one direction on that interpretive bridge. It was always the modern world rummaging about in Scripture, saying things like "This relates to me," or, "I'm sorry, this is really impractical," or, "I really can't make sense out of that." It was always the modern world telling the Bible what's what.The full text is online here: On NOT reaching Our Culture Through Our Preaching.
I don't believe that the Bible wants to "speak to the modern world." Rather, I think the Bible wants to change, convert the modern world.
The modern world is not only the realm of the telephone, the telegraph, and allegedly "critical thinking," this world is also the habitat of Auschwitz, two of the bloodiest wars of history, and assorted totalitarian schemes which have consumed the lives of millions. Why would our preaching want to be comprehensible to that world?....
Rather than reaching out to speak to our culture, I think our time as preachers is better spent inculturating Twenty First Century Americans into that culture which is called church. There is no way that I can crank the gospel down to the level where any American can walk in off the street and know what it is all about within fifteen minutes. One can't even do that with baseball! You have to learn the vocabulary, the rules, and the culture in order to understand it. Being in church is something at least as different as baseball.
Forming the church through our speech, laying on contemporary Christians the stories, images, and practices which make us disciples is our most challenging task as preachers.
The point is not to speak to the culture. The point is to change it.
I wholeheartedly agree about scripture seeking to transform our culture. However, I also think there should be a balance in preaching that Willimon seems to miss in moving from one pole to another. Just as I think sermons should balance speaking to the head (intellect) and the heart (emotions), I think we can not transform culture until we have spoken to it. What do you think? Should preaching speak to the culture or seek to transform it?
The Rev. Frank Logue, Pastor
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