Transfiguration, 2023

The Super Bowl is over. We can get on to Lent now. If that sounds a little facetious, it is. Our people are immersed in a culture with a wholly other calendar of observances and holidays. It is often difficult for the preacher to find a way to gain traction or even get attention in this climate. The culture which dominates our screens and our sounds often exerts a tremendous pull on the parishioner who is sitting in our pews.

I watched the game yesterday. I grew near Kansas City and have rooted for the Chiefs for decades. But that was probably the longest stint of TV watching I have done in some time. I was really struck by the repeated advertisement featuring the young woman with an app on her phone that allowed her to “shop like a billionaire.” Such ads are interesting to parse. They ask us to imagine a preferred future and what makes for a good life. In this ad true joy was to be found in the acquisition of more and more things at what appeared to be a ridiculously low price. Apart from questioning that as wisdom, once you see this in the ad, it is hard to unsee. The ad becomes a form of manipulation. One can see the strings which some large corporation is using to manipulate us.

How shall the preacher preach in this sort of a climate. In the medieval world of the European peasant, the church often was the sensory experience of his/her week. The organ was the loudest sound they might have heard. The priest’s vestments would have been the fanciest clothes they sang. The music of the Mass might have been the most sophisticated music they heard all week. We will surely not be able to compete with the media and sensory world. All we have is Christ. He stands on a mountain top today, revealed to be brighter and more beautiful than any fashion icon or YouTube influencer. Yet, He does not project that glory. He goes down the hill with disciples to Jerusalem and humble death upon a cross. We preach Christ crucified.

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