The Rocky Mount Sermon Opera


And seeing the multitudes, He went up onto a mountain; and when He was set, His disciples came unto Him. And He opened His mouth and taught them. -Matthew 5:1-2

It was the greatest sermon of all time. To put it in rock-n-roll terms; kind of like the Beatles last concert. On January 30, 1969, the boys from Liverpool decided to perform an impromptu concert on the rooftop of the Apple studios in London. It was to be their last public performance. Some say one of their best. And soon thereafter, the Beatles were no more. They played only 5 songs.


So, if Jesus were around today, and he was preaching His last sermon as a concert, what might that sound like? I’m not George Martin, but I’ll give it my best shot. Here’s what I’m guessing His 5 songs might be:

Matthew 5:3-12

These verses – known as the Beatitudes – are all about our need to be of a certain type of character in order to be blessed and happy in our lives. Some of these characteristics include meekness, humility, love and compassion. And there is no one better at sharing the love and compassion better than the Reverend Al Green. Something to get the crowd going, grooving and on their feet.

Happiness is when you really feel good about somebody
Nothing wrong with being in love with someone, yeah
Oh, baby, love and happiness (love and happiness)

You be good to me
And I’ll be good to you
And we’ll be together
We’ll see each other
Walk away with victory, hey

 Matthew 5:13-16

These verses dealt with our value as God’s people and disciples of Jesus, and the concepts of being Salt and Light. That we are truly to be “the salt of the earth” and a “light unto the world”. These passages compliment and complete Jesus’ picture of who we should be, even as I’m sure he knew we never really would be. Like any good Father though, he wanted His children to be the best that they could be.

To be, as Van Morrison said, someone exactly like you.

I’ve been searching a long time
For someone exactly like you
I’ve been traveling all around the world
Waiting for you to come through.

I’ve been traveling a hard road
Looking for someone exactly like you
I’ve been carryin’ my heavy load
Waiting for the light to come
Shining through.

Matthew 5:17-48

This – the longest section of the Sermon – is where Jesus compares the Old Covenants and Laws with the new teachings about salvation through belief in Him. Some people think this was  in contradiction to the Old Testament, but really it’s a fulfillment of those teachings through the body of Christ.

Yes He says, you’ve got to make a choice and decide. Stick with the old or embrace the new. And I think what He really was asking was: Are you gonna go my way?

I was born long ago
I am the chosen, I’m the one
I have come to save the day
And I won’t leave until I’m done

So that’s why you’ve got to try
You got to breath and have some fun
Though I’m not paid, I play this game
And I won’t stop until I’m done

But what I really want to know is
Are you gonna go my way ?

And I got to got to know

Matthew 6:1-18

By now the crowd is jumping and Jesus gets a little fired up Himself. In Matthew 6, He’s calling us all out for our deceitfulness, our materialism, our black hearts and good deeds done only for appearances sake. He urges us to look not to  look only for gains in this world, but to focus more on the rewards to come in Heaven. And it’s clear that the Man in Black knew exactly was He was talking about.

The wealthiest person
Is a pauper at times
Compared to the man
With a satisfied mind

When my life has ended
And my time has run out
My friends and my loved ones
I’ll leave there’s no doubt

But one thing’s for certain
When it comes my time
I’ll leave this old world
With a satisfied mind

Matthew 7:1-29

The final chapter of the Sermon is a stern warning on two topics; judging others and believing in false prophets. Again, like any good Father, He wants to give us this final bit of advice before sending us out into the night, on our own, to muddle our way through this life.

The crescendo has peaked and the concert is winding down…c’mon people now, get together.

Good night everyone; Jesus has left the building.

Love is but a song to sing
Fear’s the way we die
You can make the mountains ring
Or make the angels cry
Though the bird is on the wing
And you may not know why

Some may come and some may go
We shall surely pass
When the one that left us here
Returns for us at last
We are but a moment’s sunlight
Fading in the grass

Come on people now
Smile on your brother
Everybody get together
Try to love one another
Right now


Battle Lines Being Drawn


The noise of battle is in the land, and great destruction. – Jeremiah 50:22

There’s something happening here
But what it is ain’t exactly clear
There’s a man with a gun over there
Telling me I got to beware

Ahh yes, the 60’s. The British may have been invading the music scene, but it was boots on the ground for the US of A. Both in the paddies and hills of Vietnam and in the streets and college campuses here at home.

TV channels were limited then, so there was no hiding it. A whole generation had gone to war with it’s predecessors.

And each side had chosen it’s own form of weapons.

Buffalo Springfield’s message to us was a clarion call to stop, look and listen, just like Elvis Presley before.

I was a shade too young to be shipped off to war in 1967, but all of us in the neighborhood had or knew someone’s older brother who had gone. And some did not return.

I think it’s time we stop
Children, what’s that sound?
Everybody look – what’s going down?

It certainly was time to look at what was going down and, as Marvin sang, what was going on. It seemed like the earth was spinning off it’s axis in a thousand different directions and we were truly on the road to Barry McGuire’s “Eve of Destruction”. It was college kids battling the police, protesters damning the war, parents battling teens on drugs, soldiers fighting the war and blacks and whites trying to come to terms with the ending of “separate but equal”.

There’s battle lines being drawn
Nobody’s right if everybody’s wrong
Young people speaking’ their minds
Getting so much resistance from behind

In the middle of it all, there were peace symbol necklaces, soldiers flashing peace signs and rockers with protest songs. There was “flower power”, “make love not war” and Dr. Tim telling us all to “turn on, tune in and drop out”. Very groovy, baby!

It certainly was hard to tell what was right from wrong. But you could sense something in the air; a change was gonna come.

What a field day for the heat
A thousand people in the street
Singing songs and carrying signs
Mostly saying, “hooray for our side”

All we really had to do was listen. For Jesus had established the righteous truth long, long ago. The peacemakers,  the pure of heart, the merciful and the persecuted…they were all blessed. And they were the light unto the world. It took all of these events unfolding to fulfill Jesus’ words on the Mount. And goodness prevailed.

Paranoia strikes deep
Into your life it will creep
It starts when you’re always afraid
Step out of line, the men come and take you away

Buffalo Springfield, in it’s original 1966 lineup, included the likes of Stephen Stills and Neil Young (CSN&Y), Richie Furay (Poco), Dewey Martin (The Monkees session player) and Bruce Palmer. In retrospect, they were probably the first (or second if Cream got in there ahead of them) “supergroup”.

They recorded only 3 albums and their biggest hit “For What It’s Worth” was not on their debut, but after it took off on the charts reaching #7, was later added to the re-issue. The title never appears in the song’s lyrics and legend holds that it came from a conversation that Stephen Stills had with Ahmet Ertegun of Atlantic Records (who was the first guy to recognize the genius of Ray Charles btw) when they were about to be signed to a record deal. It’s been said that Stills said to Ertegun, “I have this song here, for what it’s worth, if you want it.”

While “For What It’s Worth” came to symbolize the Vietnam war protest movement and the tragedy at Kent State University, the truth is the song was written about a 10:00 curfew law in the LA/Sunset Strip club district. When one of LA’s most powerful radio stations announced a protest, over 1,000 young demonstrators (including young celebs like Peter Fonda and Jack Nicholson) turned out for one of the first of what were later referred to as the “Sunset Strip Riots”.

The 60’s are like a bookend to me with the 2000’s. My politics have reverted (liberally) over time. My religious beliefs have been strengthened.

I look at everything through the lens of WWJD.

And that’s what rules…for what it’s worth.




The noise of battle is in the land, And great destruction. – See more at: