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Art and Ideology, Part II

April 6, 2008

This is turning out to be a cool discussion.  So to further unpack my thoughts I want to try and make sense of my utterly romantic view of art and its relationship with the art/craft/science of preaching.

First I don’t want to set up a false dichotomy.  While it would be fun to post with something like “which would you rather hear – a sermon that is theologically and biblically solid but passionless, or a sermon that is passionate but theologically shallow?” such questions are ultimately unsatisfying, simply because the correct answer is obvious.  The key is balance.  Passion vs. ideology is not a true dichotomy – one can be legitimately passionate about one’s ideology.

  • The ratio of inspiration to perspiration is often quite different for sermons than for an art project or a musical work.  I’m not under pressure to finish songs – they get done when they get done.  Sermons have to be ready at 9:00 Sunday Morning or we have a problem.
  • Ideology certainly plays a part in my preaching.  There are certain theological centers around which many sermons are formed.  I have a theological worldview and undeniable theological commitments (some might label that ideology) that informs my reading and communication of the gospel in the text.
  • Art (for the most part) is an enduring form – something is created that can be re-viewed, re-heard or re-experienced.  It is placed on exhibit.  One can go see a sculpture or painting, or purchase a Rolling Stones album or rent a DVD.  My sermons, on the other hand, have the enduring quality of a piece of performance art – once it’s over it’s over.  It exists only for a moment in time.  There are no manuscripts, notes, or (currently) recordings.  The moment passes and the sermon exists only in the collective memory of the congregation.

As one who crafts and delivers sermons I take seriously the romantic-artistic aspect of preaching as I understand it.  Yet I recognize that often the passion generated from and within the sermon comes from someplace outside myself.  At its best the sermon displays the intersection of God’s passions, the congregations passions, and mine – and points a way forward into a reality that we call the Kingdom of God.

At the same time I pray that sometimes God works through the sermon despite all my efforts.

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