Summary: Preaching lessons from the best sermon ever given, the Sermon on the Mount.
In this lesson I hope to teach some features of a rich sermon gleaned from the greatest sermon of all time, the Sermon on the Mount for a sermon filled with splendid content.
Have you ever sat through one of those sermons where you wished you could remember every line, because it was so jam packed full of information? That is how the greatest sermon of all time is remembered in Matthew 5-7, the Sermon on the Mount.
This lesson will attempt to describe some of the characteristics that make the Sermon on the Mount the greatest sermon of all time, and how we can all learn from that to create sermons that are truly a full seven-course meal and more. We will see that a feast of a sermon can include servings of boldness, is exclusive, honors the past, shames empty religion, confronts motives, challenges double-mindedness, comforts the anxious, tackles judgmentalism, invites prayer, emphasizes love in action, points in the right direction, warns against falsehood, corrects religiosity, urges orthopraxy and is jam-packed.
The seven course meal at one restaurant listed some yummy items. The first course was Gorgonzola Polenta with lemon basil and sun dried tomato butter sauce. Second, wild mushroom soup with rosemary, merlot, cream and crostini. Third, northwest wild greens with green apples, goat cheese and raspberry vinaigrette. Fourth, lemon sorbet with fresh mint. Fifth, chicken Amore, almond crusted with blueberries, peaches and Grand Marinier. Sixth, salmon de Provence with horseradish crust and an orange beurre blanc. Seventh, macadamia cups with passion fruit cream and fresh berries. With sweet cream and herbed butter on rustic herb rolls included and appropriate drinks, the meal sounds delicious. Perhaps the items are not your preference. Some moderns cook seven course meals for their guests at home these days. I don't ever remember having a seven course meal, but if I did, I'm sure I could not eat it all, but would certainly enjoy taking a few bites out of each course. On a special occasion, such a meal must be a real delight.
The Sermon on the Mount is like a meal in several courses. Each course is a delight and a meal within a meal. It is not a quick snack for Sunday brunch, like some sermons are. It is a full on, sit down, nibble, sip and have a long conversation with good friends type meal. At our house, we occasionally have a four or five course, sit down meal with friends. It takes extra planning and foresight. We add things to the meal that we normally don't bother with. We use our best glassware, cutlery and dishes. We add fancy decorations, special background music, flowers, decorative napkins, and so on.
A sermon that is like a seven course meal also adds extra ingredients, involves special preparation and an expertise in gourmet preaching that is on a level way above sausages on the barbeque. How can we prepare such a spiritual meal for the delight and edification of our congregations? The Sermon on the Mount is such a meal in more than seven courses. What can we can learn from it in regard to preaching?
Just remember one thing. If you are going to prepare a feast of a sermon, it may be good to warn people ahead of time. I don't think I would enjoy going to a friend's house expecting a quick bite and a short visit, when they had prepared a feast. I would not want to have to constantly be looking at my watch, nor would I want to have eaten too much beforehand. So, tell your congregation ahead of time, if you are planning a special feast of a sermon. Like a seven course meal, this sermon may also take longer than your usual time.
1. The Sermon on the Mount is Bold
Jesus' begins the Sermon on the Mount with a bold and daring explanation of what makes for true happiness. He is not afraid to confront accepted wisdom and be at odds with trendy philosophy. Instead he boldly confronts the idea that happiness comes from money, or that thinking poor is wrong. Instead Jesus claims that the spiritual attitude that the poor have produces real happiness. He boldly confronts other attitudes and urban myths common to ancient society and ours. Jesus minces no words. He does not apologize for one single statement. He does not hedge his bets just in case he offends the ladies' auxiliary or the men's grounds committee. He just tells it like it is, no reservations.
2. The Sermon on the Mount is Exclusive
In a world where tolerance is expected, Jesus teaches that only his disciples are the light of the world and no one else. People today believe the myth that there are plenty of good people who are not Christians, but Jesus plainly states that it is only his disciples who are the salt of the earth. He boldly confronts no-works, “easy-believism” by stating that the only way we can shed a light is by our good works.