HOW THE SERMON ON THE MOUNT CHANGED STEVEN COLBERT’S LIFE
One a cold winter day in Chicago Steven Colbert stood on a street corner, unsure and confused. Riddled with anxiety and despair with few tethers in his life. Left with a mother thousands of miles away and pursuing an uncertain career in comedy and theater. At the age of twenty-two he had rejected his early Catholic upbringing and became an atheist. But this day was different, it was cold, like only those from Chicago could understand. He had rejected God, he hadn’t become at peace.
Nearby stood a man handing out Gideon Bibles, the ones with the New Testament and two other books; Psalms and Proverbs. He gave one to Colbert. Who then opened the frozen Bible and turned to a page that contained the verse;
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?”
Reading this verse struck a chord with Colbert, it answered his doubts. In that moment he felt as if Jesus was talking to him. What he read became more than letters strung together to form words. He felt Jesus was talking directly to him.
In that cold moment of his life, he continued reading. He read the entire Sermon on the Mount, from chapter 5 to chapter 8, in the book of Matthew. He devoured the words and each sentence propelled him to a different understanding of life and his purpose. He was no longer confused.
He had gone to Chicago to attend Northwestern’s theatrical school. His goal was to be a comedian or an actor. Earlier in his life, his father and two brothers had died in a plane crash. Being away from home and still dealing with the death of his siblings and father had created a crisis in his life. At first he turned to Xanax, which provided no relief. He still woke every morning suffering from depression and anxiety.
Then he had his moment on a cold street in Chicago. We all know the rest of the story. His wit and humor has made him into a celebrity and an important political satirist. But it was the Sermon on the Mount that steadied him.
The Sermon on the Mount is three short chapters, from five to seven, in the book of Matthew. It was Jesus’s first public sermon. Jesus had been through the forty days in the desert, baptized and gained followers. This was Jesus’s coming out speech.
It contains such notable Christian values such as; the Beatitudes, the Golden Rule and the Lord’s prayer. No single section of the four Gospels contain more of Jesus’s teachings than the Sermon on the Mount.
A simple place to start, full of Christian richness. A place where we learn that the quality of our heart is more important than our deeds. A place to discover the real meaning of loving our neighbor. A complete explanation of the ten commandments and the will of God. It is all here. A strong reader can complete this reading in fifteen minutes, but it takes perhaps a lifetime to fully grasp.
We have other speeches and sermons we can read, like the Gettysburg Address or Martin Luther King’s, I have a dream speech or John Winthrop’s, City on the Hill. Or those from Winston Churchill or John Kennedy. But included in the Sermon on the Mount are the words of life, complete and sound.
Like Steven Colbert, we need look no further than this mighty discourse, for the answers of how to live as Christians. We won’t need those cold and gloomy days to look for direction. We will have with us a primer on God’s desire for our lives.
Perhaps when we finish we will be fulfilled or perhaps the illusionary nature of the world will disappear. Perhaps we will become like a rock on a shore that no longer worries about the pounding waves of life.
Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman
Photo by Angelina Odemchuk
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