The value we were exploring today was culture. Last year I interpreted this value to mean place, and we had a whole preaching series called Staying in Place. But today I was challenged to actually address culture. When I was studying at theological college, this topic was talked about a lot. Sometimes I feel like there can be a disconnect between ideas at college and what we talk about in church. So I wanted to try and bring these together and give a sermon based on Richard Niebuhr’s classic book Christ and Culture. This is a familiar work in theological circles, but beyond it, I’m not too sure.
I find preaching about a theologian and their ideas tricky. I don’t attempt it often. In fact, it was way back in 2018 that I last attempted it when explaining Henri Nouwen and his book The Wounded Healer. I think I find it tricky because at heart, I am an expository preacher. I enjoy working through a biblical text. Trying to create a sermon based on someone’s ideas can feel more like a lecture. But at the same time, I think there is value in hearing theologians who bring together a multitude of biblical passages and scholarship to try and address such a massive issue like culture. I aimed to try and give the church a framework in understanding and appreciating the various responses Christians have to this question of culture and then helping us to begin to discern where we sit. I realised how easy I identify with Christ in Culture, Christ Above Culture, and Christ Transforming Culture. However, I am challenged to embrace the Christ Against Culture more. I need to be quicker to resist and embrace the foolishness of the gospel. May Christ be Lord wherever we are!
- Richard Niebuhr, Christ and Culture
- John Stackhouse, Making the Best of It: Following Christ in the Real World