I wrote the Sermon Notes for the recent Man of Steel blockbuster film. Thousands of pastors took the time to visit a website, enter their address, and download the notes. I am glad that many have found the parallels (and distinctions) drawn between the life of Jesus and the myth of Superman helpful. Countless moviegoers from different faith traditions (or lack thereof) noticed the rather obvious connections between Jesus of Nazareth and Kal-El of Krypton. Hopefully, such comparisons do not detract from either story. My sermon notes were designed to connect (and separate) the superhero film from the enduring testimony regarding Jesus.
Nevertheless, some see the structuring of a sermon around a blockbuster movie as everything that's wrong with church in the 21st century. It is compromised and compromising. Why would we surrender a sacred service to a secular movie?
As someone who likes his church services slow, low-fi, and ancient in origin, I can see why the inclusion of clips from any upcoming movie might be distracting and disturbing. I don't think my sermon notes are appropriate for all congregations and contexts.
I appreciate the desire to keep our churches pure, to keep out foreign idols, to resist the influence of Hollywood. I respect what I see as an Amish commitment to keep things simple. While many churches discuss evangelistic strategies, I always smile when I think about the Amish method. How much do they spend on advertising or outreach activities? The Amish live out their faith so distinctively that tourists make special trips to Lancaster County to photograph them! How cool to think that Christians could be so unique that others will take vacation time just to watch us practice our faith.
I also value the sacramental church tradition that connects worshippers with the otherworldly, sensory aspects of our faith. In Anglican, Catholic, and Orthodox settings, the "smells and bells" are designed to take us to a higher plane, to follow a church calendar connected to eternity. Everything builds towards the Eucharist—all is in service of that wondrous "foretaste of glory divine."
The vast majority of Protestant churches are designed around a message. They build not towards the table, but towards the sermon—where the text of life is put into dialogue with the norming norm provided by the word of God. Some pastors place themselves under scripture by adhering to a lectionary. Plenty have decided to create sermon series connected around a particular book of the Bible or maybe a theme. They may preach about a contemporary issue in an effort to connect the truth of scripture to the situation of their congregation. Contextualization and cultural interpretation are essential skills for pastors adopting this approach.
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