This morning I read just past the end of the Sermon on the Mount, where it says that the crowds were amazed at Jesus’s teaching because, unlike the scribes, Jesus taught as one who had authority. I almost took that as an invitation to go back and re-read the sermon…this time with feeling!
One thing I struggle against is that the Sermon on the Mount is so familiar, and it’s full of so many well-worn phrases — light of the world, turn the other cheek, go the second mile, lilies and sparrows, pearls before swine, do unto others, the house built on the rock — that they have become calcified. I sometimes imagine Jesus, with his eyes turned heavenward, intoning the words of the Sermon on the Mount like some heavy-jowled, ultra-dignified Shakespearian actor.
Peter Maurin, the cofounder of the Catholic Worker, said that “To dynamite the message is the only way to make the message dynamic.” The Sermon on the Mount is pure dynamite. I’d love to see it interpreted by a comedian, a clown, or a talented spoken word artist like Micah Bournes. The words are too dynamic, and often too funny (like when Jesus says we should take the telephone pole out of our own eye before we take the speck out of our brother’s), to be read with so much solemnity. The way to take the Sermon on the Mount seriously is to not take it somberly.