Take Up Your Cross
Tony E Dillon Hansen
Sermon based upon Mark 8:27-38, Psalm 19, James 3:1-12 and Proverbs 1:20-33
This week’s passage from Mark comes to us in two parts 1) Peter’s declaration of Jesus and 2) Jesus challenging us to take up our cross.
These are core to understanding Mark’s Christology.
Jesus asks the disciples “who do people say I am” but more importantly “who do you say I am?” We ask this of confirmation students. Who do you say Jesus is? What did Jesus do and why is that important to us today?
Let us shift a bit and think this a different way.
Last time we met, we talked about how different hats and clothing we wear can change the way people see us. Peter’s debate with Jesus is a challenge for us to ask what do our actions and words say about us.
If we say we are a follower of Jesus, what does that mean?
Who is Jesus to us - to you? Mark leaves no wiggle room in this idea.
Is Jesus some person walking around Palestine with a circle friends making exorbitant claims or is Jesus part of the divine? I submit to you “yes”. Jesus gives us path to salvation - to God.
So is it the teaching or who Jesus was? Some follow Jesus for who he was and some for what he taught. I submit to you “yes.” (a revolutionary rabbi with God inside him - the Messiah teaching simple empowering ways for all to live, grow and connect to God and to each other.)
Jesus goes further and explains the path of God is not one paved with full acceptance and lavish fortunes, but in fact, rejection and suffering.
Some look for a savior to rid all our problems, slavery, oppression and tyrants of the world, but Jesus answers this as one who endures suffering, betrayal and violent murder.
Further, Jesus turns to his people - Jesus turns to us and declares “those who want to save their life for my sake and for the gospel will have it”
For what is wealth and earthly status but measures of a broken and troubled world. If you want to “profit” from the world, go ahead, but you measure against brokenness.
Thus, the true measure of discipleship is living Jesus in our lives.
That is to say “take up your cross.”
Not as a status symbol but how we pray behind closed doors and how we take care of our community - God’s world here.
Can you feel the weight of the cross?
1) We have many obstacles and burdens in our lives. Some people like to think their burdens are so immense they cling to them as a status, but that is not what Jesus is saying here either.
Jesus isn’t saying to wear your suffering like badges or medals. That is actually a form of idolatry. Indeed, suffering happens, but if we focus only upon our suffering, then we become negative, resentful, spiteful and hateful.
Why because we don’t let the love of God enter our hearts - there is no room unless you empty your hearts of suffering.
Rather, what if when obstacles get in our way, or even, if good things in our lives get taken away, maybe our response isn’t to focus upon the suffering but find opportunities.
In moments of crisis, with Jesus, we will find possibilities and conversation. So invite conversation with God and invite others into that conversation so that together we lift each other.
2) Crosses aren’t meant just for church either. Showing up is great, but what about the rest of our week? As I mentioned from Ephesians 6, why would you ever take off the clothing of God? Wear the good we learn in church about Jesus. When you go into the world, don’t leave God at the church; bring God home and into your lives.
Think of the ways, especially in the midst of this pandemic, have we found ways to experience God and share that experience with others. What other ways are there?
3) Taking up your cross also does not mean that our efforts are the only good ones. People like to be fixers and helpers. There are places for that. Yet, it is not my way or the highway. People will come to God in their own ways as a child of God in their own right.
We could almost think about this like our efforts around the world to bring democracy. While noble intention, we cannot force people to like us (or be like us), especially at the end of a rifle. Violence begets violence and has great cost to everyone.
Maybe instead of “fixing”, we walk with people on their journeys and encourage with our love and let God work. Maybe then you can say who Jesus is because you let Jesus be Jesus.
Recognize the kingdom of God here in all people. That is part of our role in the cross. It is the way you live and not just how big your wallet or what your status is.
Further by doing this, we recognize that we don’t do this alone. We have each other (and God) to challenge and to teach each other - through our own suffering about the love and compassion of God that is revealed through us. That is church and that is God working in us.
So if you feel the weight of the cross, pray a moment and realize that God is one who helps us.
Jesus is helping you carry your cross. Let God be with you.
Thanks Be to God.