a priest's musings on the journey

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Sermonette: Proper 19B - 17 September 2006

Mark 8:27-38

34He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 35For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. 36For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life.

I'm not exactly sure how it happened, but the cross has become so romanticized and sanatized that this text has almost lost its meaning for us. I read it so glibly, without a second thought of what Jesus is asking of me. Would I be singing the Sequence Hymn, "Take up your cross, the Master said," with such enthusiasm if I understood that Jesus was aking me to follow him on his way to Calvary? Would I be so quick to acclaim Praise to Christ after the reading of this Gospel if I understood that Jesus was asking me to endure suffering and finally to die with him?

I have to admit that I have only recently understood what it meant for me to take up the cross and follow Jesus. I'm not sure what I thought it meant before. I am sure I never took it seriously. I never undertood that it would be burdensome and that I would stumble under its weight. I never understood that the cross would cause pain and suffering. I never understood that those in the world would ridicule me for carrying the cross and cause even more suffering. The mystery is that it has been through the suffering of the cross that I have come to understand why it must be borne and how becomes life giving.

Part of my revelation has been that I have been reading the text all wrong. I have been reading it as "TAKE UP YOUR CROSS and follow me", when it should be read, "take up your cross AND FOLLOW ME." The cross is there anyway. We all have one whether or not we acknowledge Jesus as the Christ. The world still groans in anticipation of its full redemption; it remains infected by sin; we remain, at least in the physical reality, submissive to death. Jesus knows that our cross can not be thrown aside. If we throw it down, someone else will pick it up and put it back on our shoulders. Jesus offers us a way to sanctify our cross. He offers a way for us to unite our cross to his cross, and to experience death in his death. In so doing, death loses its power over us and His cross tranforms ours to a conduit of life and salvation.

When our crosses are united to Christ's cross and we follow him to Calvary, then we become partakers in the triumph of His Cross. We share in his suffering as we share in the sufferings of every other person who bears a cross; we share in His triumph as the powers of evil are defeated by the love and compassion that sustains us and empowers us to continue to carry the cross with Jesus. Once we become self-centered in our own pain or once we begin to show partiality (as St James warned in today's Epistle) and only share in the suffering of the elite, then we are no longer following Jesus. Instead, we are following Gestas (the inpenitant thief who died with Jesus) and our cross will lead to death.

What are the crosses that those around you bear? Are they being crucified by injustice, oppression, or the partiality of the Church? Are the being abused by sickness, disease, or addiction? Are they being burdened down by poverty, classism, illiteracy, hunger, sexism, or a number of other -isms? How is Christ calling you to share in their sufferings? What must you do to deny yourself and to lose your life so that you may find it in them? What in you must be crucified so that your cross may become a life-giving tree for others?
:: posted by Padre Rob+, 8:24 AM


Add a comment