Year A Proper 17 Matthew 16 2011
The Lure of the Easy Way
Matthew 16: 21-28

I like the story of the young man, eager to make it to the top, who went to a well-known millionaire businessman and asked him the first reason for his success. The businessman answered without hesitation, "Hard work." After a lengthy pause the young man asked, "What is the SECOND reason?"

We want to deal this morning with the lure of the easy way. Jesus and His disciples were at Caesarea Philippi. Their ministry to this point had been a stunning success. Crowds pressed in on them everywhere they went. People eagerly reached out to touch this attractive young teacher from Nazareth. The disciples themselves were caught up in the excitement of it all. Jesus asked them, "Who do you say I am?" and Simon Peter answered enthusiastically, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God!" It was one of the most dramatic moments in the disciples' pilgrimage with Jesus.

Then Jesus changed the subject. He began to tell them that the crowds would soon turn against Him; He would be crucified, on the third day he would be raised. The disciples didn't know what to make of all this. Simon Peter took Jesus aside: "Forbid it, Lord, that these things should happen to you." Jesus' response to Simon Peter is as harsh as any words in the New Testament: "Get behind me Satan! You are not on the side of God but of man." Perhaps Jesus called Simon Peter ‘Satan’ because of Jesus' experience in the wilderness immediately after His baptism by John. In today's parlance, it was there that Satan revealed to Jesus the way to make a million dollars in three easy steps turn stones to bread, leap off the pinnacle of the temple, "Bow down and worship me!" I see Satan not as a red caped figure with a pitchfork but dressed in a $400 suit and offering in a glib and polished tongue instant success, instant glamour, instant gratification. We can see Satan almost anywhere today. Jesus encountered him this time in Simon Peter: "Forbid it, Lord, that you should have to suffer and die."

If there is any doubt that Jesus is resisting the lure of the easy way, listen to the words that follow: "If any man would be my disciple, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me."

We are the devotees of the easy way even though everyone in this room knows two important truths.

  1. The Path to Personal Success Is that of Self-Denial.
  2. Self-Denial Is Essential to the Salvation of the World.

The Home Court Advantage
Romans 12:9-21

In mid-August the basketball team of Georgetown University, the “Hoyas,” set out on a ten day “good will tour” of China. They played various Chinese teams in an effort to foster good feelings between the USA and China. The basketball games were a kind of “visual aid” to accompany vice-president Joe Biden’s concurrent visit with Chinese political leaders.

On August 18 the “Hoyas” played against the “Bayi Rockets” of Shanghai at the Beijing Olympic Basketball Arena. Unfortunately all the “good will” went “goody by.” In the fourth quarter, after a hard-fought, highly physical, in-your-face game, the score was tied. One flying elbow on a rebound set off a brawl that cleared both teams’ benches and had players kicking, punching, and wrestling with each other in the middle of the basketball court. The fans added their two cents by throwing chairs and full water bottles onto the court. Finally the Georgetown coach gathered his players and declared “We’re outta here.” The US team sprinted for the exit tunnel under a hail of tossed trash.

Talk about a public relations nightmare. Not to mention a diplomatic incident.

This bench-clearing brouhaha didn’t exactly advertise the qualities of good sportsmanship and team spirit. But whichever team threw the first punch or was more “offensive” than “defensive” it was the visiting team, the Georgetown Hoyas, who ultimately had to beat a hasty retreat. The Hoya’s Coach Thompson wisely acknowledged that whatever else was going on during that melee, his team was lacking one crucial bit of support--the home court advantage... presents Leonard Sweet