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Being Church in Steeler Nation

January 19, 2017

Today is Steeler Day at Mt. Nebo Preschool. As I was eating my breakfast this morning, in the black dress, and gold necklace, I had planned to wear today, my sister said, "You cannot wear that on Steeler Day. Here, borrow one of my t-shirts."


I showed up in the office today wearing a black "Pittsburgh Stairway to Seven" t-shirt, and jeans. I fit right in with the kiddos. But as I settled myself into my desk, I could all but feel some of my seminary theology professors cringe.


When I was in seminary we spent a lot of time talking about Christ and Culture.* How much do we allow the culture (i.e the Steeler's playoff schedule) to shape our understanding of who Jesus is?  How else do we experience God, but in a specific culture (a Presbyterian church located in Pittsburgh Presbytery)?


My more conservative seminary professors and classmates wanted to completely separate Christ from Culture

You should never reschedule a Session meeting

because it conflicts with a Steeler's play-off game.

The office of the clergyperson shall not be tarnished

by a clergyperson wearing a Steelers shirt and jeans to the office.


This camp is so focused on right belief in Jesus (orthodoxy) that it doesn't take into account the right way we live out our faith in Jesus (orthopraxis).


My more liberal seminary professors and classmates wanted to completely merge Christ and Culture.

Church should be canceled on a Steeler playoff Sunday,

so that we have time to host a playoff party,

and share Jesus with our friends who do not have a relationship with him.

If you must have church on Playoff Sunday,

at least wear a Steeler Stole,

so people know you are one of them.


This camp is so focused on the right way we live out our faith in Jesus (orthopraxis) that it forgets that there are faithful ways and unfaithful ways to believe in Jesus (orthodoxy).


While I'm grateful for spending time with people in each of these camps, as a pastor, I tend to fall between these two extremes. No, I'm not cancelling worship on Playoff Sunday. But I'm also not going to drag out our Sunday afternoon Maintenance and Finance meeting. No, I'm not praying for a Steeler's victory during my pastoral prayer in worship. But I'm also not going to tell the Preschool they can't have a Steeler Day before a playoff game.


Some of you probably think I'm a little too lenient about the encroachment of the Steeler's football schedule into our life together. That's fair. I did grow up in Pittsburgh so Steeler culture is in my blood. But, friends, the reality is that January is a rough month for many in our congregation. The flu, bad weather, the post-holiday blues, and the post-holiday hospitalization spike are real, and really trying for many congregants. If the anticipation of a Steeler victory this weekend puts a little pep in someone's step, I am willing to re-schedule a few meetings.


I draw the line at Steeler's stoles. Black and Gold are not liturgical colors.


*If you want to read about this, I recommend Richard Niebuhr's Christ and Culture. Swing by my office if you want to borrow a copy.

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