Drawing from literature, music, pop culture, and personal experience, Feldmeir, a GenXer himself, speaks to the largely unchurched people who live their lives in the shadows of the Baby Boomers. This timeless collection of 21 sermons originally preached during the tumultuous years of 1999 to 2003 touch honestly on such issues as sin, grace, relational brokenness, community, and the kingdom of God, explored through the unique experiences, interests, struggles, and passions of GenXers in the postmodern milieu.
Ideal for clergy and lay worshipers alike.
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In a culture of conspicuous affluence, rampant consumerism, social disconnection, and pop theology, Feldmeir’s sermons provide a refreshing, imaginative, and hard-hitting alternative to the cultural gospel so often preached in today’s churches.
Paperback: 160 pages
Publisher: Chalice Press (March 2003)
Reviewed by Ken Carter, Sr Pastor, Providence United Methodist Church in Charlotte, North Carolina for CircuitRider Reviews
The one who stands and preaches is seeking to build a bridge from the world of the scripture, which she inhabits through acts of preparation, study and prayer, to the world of the listener in the pew. This can be interpreted as an attempt to be relevant, or to find some application for the text, or to move the hearer toward some response, whether that be repentance or action, protest or reconciliation.
It comes as no surprise that preachers are always on the front lines when the relationship between these worlds seems to shift. In the 1960s, the question was whether the sermon would have a future, given the call to action and the claims of justice in the world. In the 1980s, the question was whether the sermon could stake out a place in the midst of other forms of communication, the most prominent of them visual.
At the beginning of a new decade and millennium, a new question emerges, having to do with postmodernism and its critique of our assumptions about the foundations of knowledge and language, authority and narrative. Most see postmodernity as a rejection of the enlightenment quest for rational certainty, an openness to various claims about truth, a questioning of authority and a refusal to focus on a single metanarrative. Postmodern pilgrims, the argument goes, are suspicious of institutions, less than optimistic about human progress, and willing to discover their own place to stand in the midst of the sinking sand of modernity.
This very well might be “the end of the world as we know it,” to borrow a phrase from R.E.M.; and yet the emergence of postmodernism is both crisis and opportunity. Mark Feldmeir, pastor of Santa Margarita UMC in Rancho Santa Margarita, California, is convinced that preaching to the postmodern situation is important. He is immersed in the world of the post-modern audience, and his book, a collection of sermons, draws deeply from the well of popular culture. There he discovers parables awaiting our response; “Be mindful”, he notes, “that most postmoderns visit the local theater more often than they attend church; they are already well-trained to perceive the world as a series of scenes and can exegete a scene with great savvy and depth”.
The testimony given to the exiles by Feldmeir is that there is in the world a spiritual hunger, and often the need is addressed by popular musicians and film directors. As a preacher, Feldmeir seeks not so much to convince his hearers of the truth of the gospel as he alerts them to images in the world that await our reflection and response. In a culture that resists traditional means of communicating the faith, he listens instead for a prophetic word from Bono and U2, or a moment of insight, clarity and forgiveness in the film Good Will Hunting. His work is a response to the church’s question about how we should preach, who will be listening, and what all of this might mean. There are, of course, questions beneath these: If we don’t begin to preach in new ways, will we miss a generation, or two? If we don’t take these cultural shifts seriously, will we find ourselves giving answers to questions that people are no longer asking? How do we preach the ancient faith to postmoderns in the pews? I am grateful to Mark Feldmeir, who gives us clues in seeking to answer these critical questions.