What’s on the Mount…

Ben Schoettel   -  


“So, whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God. Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God, just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage but that of many, so that they may be saved. Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.” 1 Corinthians 10:31-11:1

As we continue our examination of the Sermon on the Mount, I felt that now is a good time to hit the pause button and reflect on this question: What is a “sermon”?

In the social context that we live in, we have an imagination of what it means to have influence that would have been about as believable as the movie Space Jam to the audience in Jesus’ day. Today, anyone can create “content” and distribute it to thousands (even millions) of people which then can make significant ripples in the ocean of information and influence that we all navigate between swimming and sinking in. The content that is reaching audiences everywhere has all sorts of motives and agendas attached to them. And then there are sermons preached every week all over the world. What is a sermon’s place in the Alphabetic Ocean? When we look at what Jesus is saying in his sermon, and more importantly what he is doing before and after, it is quite clear what a sermon is NOT.

  • A sermon is not a performance.

At times in his ministry, Jesus used storytelling and hyperbole to get points across to his listeners. This message proves that Jesus is not an actor sent to entertain, He is a Savior sent to be the Way.

  • A sermon is not a pep rally.

Jesus continuously exposes falsehoods and challenges corrupted laws and patterns that were commonplace within his audience. This message was not congratulating them on where their lives were, it was an invitation to know the Truth of God.

  • A sermon is not a punishment.

The actions of Jesus both backed up the words he was preaching and established that the tone of his message was not condemnation and shame but mercy and grace. This message was not to describe the death sentence to a sinful people, it was a declaration that in Jesus there is Life.

Sermons, like any function of the church, are to be seen as an interconnected part of life in the Body of Christ. Jesus is speaking the reality he is living (and inviting all to do the same.) So, when we hear sermons that pastors today pull from scripture, we must see the words of Jesus the same way. I think a helpful way of doing this is to remember that the words on the page and the Word that is Jesus are not the same.

Theologian Karl Barth was very passionate about people knowing the difference between word and Word. He wrote, “Should theology wish to be more or less or anything other than action in response to that Word, its thinking and speaking would be empty, meaningless, and futile.” In simple terms, I like to describe scripture as the map, and studies/sermons as charting the course, and Jesus as the destination. Reading the Bible or hearing the sermon are not the destinations, they are the means that we seek and find Jesus as our Way, Truth, and Life. If this is true, the only way a collective Body (community of faith) can get anywhere with a map is to follow the discovered path together to the treasured Kingdom that Jesus compels us all to seek.

Paul understood and described this truth in the opening passage. The priest’s job is not to get people to just hear, it is to get people to follow. The priest’s job is not to get people to follow them, it is to follow Christ WITH them. And remember, we are all priests. So, may our words be an interconnected expression of our lives as we abide in the Word. When we do, we find Life.