The sermon of the surmounter*

I have just come back from a 24 hour retreat. We spent time reflecting on and listening to the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7). It is a sermon that is full of wisdom, insight, challenge, encouragement and even a little humour.

The way my brain works, I wondered what a modern-day version of the Sermon on the Mount might be and ended up with the Sermon of the surmounter*. This is a sermon for modern-day church life. It started off being a challenge to myself, and then I wondered about sharing it here… if you are offended by anything here please forgive me, I don’t intend to upset anyone.

DESCRIPTION: Pastor looking over pulpit at sign that reads "don't like my preaching? dial 1-800-forgive" CAPTION: HEY!

Blessed are the handraisers, for they shall obscure the words on the screen for the people behind them.

Blessed are the tutters, for they shall make other people feel uncomfortable.

Blessed are the briefest of preachers for they shall not result in numb posteriors.

If you pray in public make sure that you use the right words otherwise God won’t understand you – and more to the point those listening won’t be able to score your prayer on the ‘Sanctification Scale’ and see how holy you are. The more you repeat yourself the more likely it is that God will listen and do what you want – he has to be beaten into submission you know. Whatever you do don’t just speak normally to God – who do you think you are?

Only ever reinforce your opinions. Don’t read books or listen to speakers who interpret the Bible differently to you because your understanding will be contaminated by their unholy words. Doctrine and Dogma are never to be questioned: your understanding is correct. Doctrine and dogma shape our understanding of who God is and provide the sides of the box into which we squeeze him.

Make sure to leave your problems, your concerns, your anxieties and your doubts outside the door on your way in so that they do not distract you from the serious business of ‘having a time of worship’. Do not allow anything you sing or pray or read or see or hear to bear any relevance to your life outside of church. Make sure that you never admit to having any problems in case some well-meaning but misguided person offers to pray for you or offer to support you. Feel free to keep people at arm’s length. And don’t forget to collect your problems, concerns, anxieties and doubts on your way out – they will be just as you left them.

Remember that ‘He who complains loudest and most often is the one God listens to most’. And if you are going to send an email, make sure you do it while you are angry and hit ‘send’ before you have a chance to reflect calmly on what you have written. A second (related) approach is to let it be known among your friends that you are upset but ‘don’t want to make a fuss’. The more you can confirm that you don’t want to make a scene the better that scene will be.

When someone shares something with you about someone else ‘for prayer’ make sure you pass it on to at least three other people – ‘for prayer’. That way the whole church can end up knowing about the original person’s problems really quickly and ‘pray’ about it together. Don’t worry about asking permission to share – it’s ‘for prayer’ so that makes it okay for everyone to know. It’s not gossip if it’s ‘for prayer’, is it?

If you listen to a sermon make sure you identify people in the church who ‘really need to hear that’. Either metaphorically (or literally if you feel brave) look meaningfully in their direction. In the unlikely event that something that is said could be applied to you make sure you deflect it in someone else’s direction and pray that nobody noticed. If you still feel uncomfortable then don’t worry, you have found something else to complain about.

Work hard behind the scenes but make sure that everyone knows that you are working hard behind the scenes. That way they will admire you for your hard work and your humility.

Be awkward: after a while you will find that people stop disagreeing with you because they are afraid to upset you and don’t want an argument. And make sure that you point out difficulties and problems with every new idea. Eventually people will come to expect that of you and will see how insightful and wise you are. For maximum effect wait until the Church Meeting to do this.

If all else fails, start writing a blog.

Be blessed, be a blessing.

*To surmount means ‘overcome (a difficulty or obstacle)’ and ‘to be on top of’

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