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.