Summary: I've reworked a few other sermons from other contributors with a slightly new emphasis upon the Contemporary English Version's translation of "You're in my way because you think like everybody else..." We must be individuals and open to disagreement and t
8-23-11 Mt. 16:21-28 “The Danger of Mega-Dittos”
Comparing a variety of Biblical versions can be very helpful. Through comparison, sometimes we can discover sometime new in the passage.
For example, let’s look at verse 23 from our Gospel reading for
today. In the New International Version this passage reads: “Jesus turned
and said to Peter, "Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me;
you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men."
I think that the meaning becomes even clearer in the Good News Version: “Jesus turned around and said to Peter, "Get away from me, Satan! You are an obstacle in my way, because these thoughts of yours don't come from God, but from man."
In still another version, the Contemporary English Version, we find
the passage rendered as follows: “Jesus turned to Peter and said, "Satan, get
away from me! You're in my way because you think like everybody else and
not like God." In this version, a new aspect begins to emerge and come into focus. The problem with what Peter has said to Jesus is not just that the thoughts come from Satan rather than God. The problem is made all the more difficult because everybody seems to think this way. We often miss that element in the traditional translation.
Today I’m going to explain as best I can why I think it is so important to speak with our own voice rather than allowing others to speak for us, and why I think this was part of what Jesus was trying to teach Peter.
But first let’s start with a common experience that maybe you have shared. This will provide a common frame of reference. Have you ever talked to others passionately until blue in the face, but they didn’t receive the message you were sending? They didn’t hear or understand not because you were not speaking clearly. Your statements were dismissed simply because what you were saying was contrary to what the majority says or thinks. I have a hunch that most of us have had that type of experience. It’s frustrating. And I think Jesus himself experienced this frustration. That is at least part of what is going on in today’s Gospel lesson. Peter wasn’t getting it. And that must have been very frustrating for the Lord.
It is human nature to go along with ideas that the majority seems to hold, ideas that we hear stated over and over. We are afraid to be different. That is why propaganda can be so numbing, dulling and effective. Nazi Germany was built upon repeating lies over and over again until the majority accepted those lies as truth. Once the majority seemed to hold those ideas, others fell silent because they were afraid that their contrary ideas would be punished. That is the nature of propaganda from that of Joseph Goebbels to the outspoken radio loudspeakers who blast everyone who disagree with them and sow the seeds of distrust aimed against those who disagree with them.
Peter needed to be challenged not only for the idea he expressed to Jesus, but also because of the ingrained habit of seeking validation of truth in what others said rather than in and through the inward testimony of the Holy Spirit. And this is often where we ourselves need to be challenged today as well.
America is deeply divided, perhaps more than it has been since the civil war. A large part of this problem is rooted in our sheer avoidance of thinking for ourselves.
Evidence clearly suggests that people who don’t ask questions for the purpose of learning something new from those who have contrary opinions, people who don’t think for themselves, and who are incapable of appreciating wisdom when it is spoken by a “contrarian” voice, are usually the most easily elected to Congress. That’s because they think like a tribe, and always act like a tribe. And it’s a serious problem. But it’s not just the Congressman’s fault. The people who elect him because of his record in towing the party line are just as much at fault.
Learning to be open to new directions and change in ideas is part of what it means to be responsive to the Holy Spirit. There is no virtue, in God’s eyes, to thinking like everyone else.
Today in America we have millions of people - many of them in our churches - who think like everybody else rather than like God,
people who wish to be served rather than serving others, people who prefer
the notion of winning the lottery to working for prosperity, people more
concerned with their rights than with their responsibilities, more concerned
with being loved than in loving others.
Jesus tells us that love is not a transaction, at least not for God. It is not