Moulding Culture

If the links don’t work for you, here is Aiden’s video presentation David & Goliath and Rescuer (Good News).

Todays reading is Matthew 5:13-16Open Link in New Window

Here is today’s reflection by Imogen.

We are a storytelling people. We tell stories to others, we tell stories to ourselves. We tell stories about the past, about the present, and about the potential future. We tell stories today and we will tell stories tomorrow. As Christians, we come from a storytelling people. The People of Israel told great stories. They handed them down from generation to generation. And then came the great storyteller. Jesus told so many stories. He told the story of the Good Samaritan, the story of the Prodigal Son, the story of the Shrewd Manager, the story of Two Sons. Story after story, Jesus turned the world upside down. And so we tell his story. This is our story.

Today we’re looking at Mark Greene’s next chapter in his book ‘Fruitfulness on the Frontline.’ We’re looking at culture. I find culture quite a difficult concept both to explain and to understand and when I’m thinking about culture change or culture shaping, culture moulding, I find that quite overwhelming. So I thought today we would talk about stories because stories point to culture. As we tell the Story of Christ we point to the Christ-shaped culture that we are called to live by. Stories do four things: stories illustrate, stories preserve, stories purify and stories illuminate.

Today’s passage is from Matthew 5Open Link in New Window, near the beginning of Jesus Sermon on the Mount. Jesus opens this sermon with the Beatitudes. These are qualities of a Christian life, qualities of a life lived in step with God, a blessed life. Then he moves on to these two well known metaphors: you are the salt of the earth; and you are the light of the world. These metaphors are personal, they emphasised the you. ‘You’ are the salt of the earth, ‘you’ are the light of the world. They are relevant because salt and light had everyday relevance for the listeners and for us as well today. Most importantly these metaphors illustrate. Metaphors are used to describe something beyond the words, a reality beyond the literal, something deeper and more profound. These metaphors illustrate. Stories also illustrate. They point to something deeper, a reality beyond the literal. Stories can illustrate culture and so the stories we tell can illustrate a Christ-shaped culture that we are called to. Stories illustrate.

Salt preserves. Although it’s less relevant for us today with the fridge, for Jesus’ listeners salt would have been a preservative. Salt preserves by retaining the good and by avoiding decay. As disciples we are called to preserve. We are called to retain the good that we see around us and to avoid decay. Salt preserves and disciples are called to preserve and stories preserve. Stories retain the good, they keep hold of the good in the history of a people or a place. They also hope to avoid decay, to avoid failing or chaos or destruction. As we tell stories we can preserve, we can retain the good that we see in the culture around us and we can hope to avoid its decay. Stories preserve.

Salt also purifies. Salt isn’t just a preservative, it also makes things better, it brings out the flavour ultimately just making it taste nicer. Salt purifies and so we, as disciples, are also called to purify, to make things better. Ultimately we know that purification only comes through Christ on the cross. His death means that we are washed clean and our sins are forgiven. But I think as disciples we are also called to participate in God’s purification. We are called to participate in God’s purifying of ourselves, to make ourselves better. We are also called to participate in God’s purification of the world, to help make the world a better place. Salt purifies, disciples are called to purify and stories also purify. Stories can make culture better. Stories can improve the situation and they can change the narrative, they can tell a new story. Stories purify.

Light unsurprisingly illuminates. This may be less true for us because we have lots of light pollution in our cities but for Jesus’ listeners they would have known the true value of light. Light illuminates the unknown spaces and places that have been previously unseen. Light also illuminates a way forward, the next steps on a path. As disciples we are called to illuminate. We are called to make known things which have not been known, to give voice to those who have been heard. We are also called to give clarity for the way ahead, to illuminate the way of Christ. Light illuminates and disciples are called to illuminate. Stories also illuminate. Stories shine light on places which have been in darkness, on people who have been forgotten, on voices which have never been heard. The stories that we tell can illuminate those people and the stories that we tell can illuminate a way forward, they can point to the way of Christ. As we tell stories we can change culture by illuminating unheard people and places and by showing and pointing to the way of Christ. So stories illustrate, stories preserve, stories purify and stories illuminate.

We are storytelling people. We tell stories because stories matter and stories do things. Stories illustrate: they point to something deeper and the stories we tell can illustrate the Christ-shaped culture we are called to. Stories preserve: stories can retain the good that we see in the culture around us and they can avoid decay. Stories purify: they can make culture better. And stories illuminate: bringing to light stories which have been unheard before, people and places which haven’t had a platform and they can give clarity for the way forward, pointing to the way of Christ. So tell stories. Tell Jesus’ story.

Think for a moment about the stories that are told on your frontline… How might the stories that you tell change the narrative, change the ending, perhaps even tell a new story? Because in telling stories we can mould culture to be more and more like the Christ-shaped culture that we are called to. So tell stories, tell Jesus’ Story, may you tell it with boldness, with competence and with courage.

Let’s pray: Lord God we thank you for your story, for the Story of the people of Israel and the Story of Jesus. We thank you that we are part of your Story. We ask that the stories that we tell will be faithful to you and point to the Christ-shaped culture were called to live by. Give us boldness, confidence and courage this day. Amen.

There will be a video version of the service and a podcast of the sermon.

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