Tuesday, June 08, 2010

The Sermon in the Valley (aka the Sermon on the Mount upside down)

Last Sunday I broke from conventional wisdom and preached an "anti-sermon." I took Jeff Foxworthy's bit ("you may be a redneck if . . .") and used it to recover the provocation of Jesus' famous Sermon in Matthew 5-7. (BTW, have you noticed Foxworthy's audience is composed primarily of rednecks laughing at each other?). What most people miss (especially at the end) is that the entire sermon was directed against the scribes and the Pharisees. So, I went through the sermon--hitting the highlights (an impossible task!)--and tried to turn Jesus' teaching upside down, rendering the following monologue (a few examples):

You might be a Pharisee if you believe people get what they deserve.

You might be a Pharisee if you believe the world would be a better place if everyone kept the ten commandments (or especially if you believe it's your job to enforce the decalogue).

You might be a Pharisee if you believe God hates your political enemies as much as you do.

You might be a Pharisee if you're convinced people love to hear you pray.

You might be a Pharisee if you ask God, "why me?" when bad things happen to you.

You might be a Pharisee if you believe you're on the "straight on narrow."

Before I ended the sermon by following Jesus' lead (there are two paths, two choices: either you enter the broad way that many righteous people find [Pharisaism] or the narrow path which is the Jesus way [mercy!]), I asked the congregation to add to the list. Here are a few zingers they offered:

You might be a Pharisee if you think God cares what you think.

You might be a Pharisee if you believe your denomination is theologically correct.

The anti-sermon seemed to inspire the congregation more than I anticipated. It's the most fun I've had preaching a sermon in a long time. And, I didn't like it at all--left me very conflicted.

Jesus' Sermon on the Mount was more provocative than I expected.


Chris Ryan said...


There doesn't happen to be an audio recording of this available, does there?

jesnicole said...

Thanks so much for sharing this, Dr. Reeves! Darryl and I would have loved to hear this!! We often quote you...and though you have no idea why, we surely do. Tell your lady hi for me please!!

Steve Lemke said...

I think that I qualify as a Pharisee . . .

Docov said...

Thanks, Brother Rodney. As always, You've left me with more Questions... than Answers. A bit disconcerting, but I like it!


Rodney Reeves said...


I spoke at FBC, Cassville (I think they make recordings of their services).

Thanks Jessica and Roger for the affirmation.

Steve, I'm with you (especially when I tried to turn upside down Jesus' advice about "letting your 'yes' be 'yes"; here's the line: You might be a Pharisee if you have to use many words to convince others you're right).

JR. said...

I checked the podcast site and it's not up yet. I'm sure it's coming. In any case, thanks so much for sharing this. As always, provocative and challenging!

I'm still taking notes :)

Miss Fuhrman said...

wow! That's a great idea! Definitely some good thinking and a way to make it relevant. How about "You might be a pharisee if you pride yourself on how thoughtful you are." Kind of an oxymoron. Thoughtful and humble people don't realize that they are ... they just are.

Rodney Reeves said...

Hey JR, good to hear from you. Hope all is well in the north country.

Megan, I like that one (or should I say, "I don't like that one").

TJW said...

Fun while preaching? Is this even possible?

Russell Marcum said...

Tread carefully with the Sermon on the Mount...reading Bonhoeffer bio...radically changed his life...that and his encounters with the black churches here in the states. Truly inspired words...hope all is well.

L said...

wow. dr. reeves.

thank you :)
i really really miss listening to you in class.
but the blog helps :)

Rodney Reeves said...

Sorry, "L". I didn't mean to hold your comment back. I simply didn't check my blog for a while (everyone knows: I'm a terrible blogger).

Thanks, Russell. So good to hear from you. It's true: Bonhoeffer will mess you up royally. He's had a tremendous influence on me.