Year B Proper 13 WEDNESDAY, 4 August 2021
St. James the Less Episcopal, Ashland, VA
“The Cross Only You Can Bear”
Collect: Let your continual mercy, O Lord, cleanse and defend your Church; and, because it cannot continue in safety without your help, protect and govern it always by your goodness; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
He 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. For 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. For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life? Indeed, what can they give in return for their life? Those who are ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the Son of Man will also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.” And he said to them, “Truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see that the kingdom of God has come with power.”
Good morning! I am glad that we can still be together, and thank you all for keeping the strict masking during this Red Zone/High Risk time. That enables us to meet.
This morning is a passage that has become common in our parlance, and because of that it is often unexamined.
But how we view the Cross of Christ, and the Cross we are called to take up says much about our view of God, our view of Christ, and our view of ourselves.
So often we see the Cross as Jesus paying a price that only he could pay, a blood ransom required by an angry God that must be appeased. I use harsh language because this concept goes against so much of what many if not most of us believe and talk about. If Jesus pays a ransom to redeem us from an impossible debt, what does that say about the nature of God? If Jesus had to do that, and we believe Jesus to be fully human AND fully divine, what does that say that God demands of Jesus and in essence Godself? And what does that say of us? It goes against the Gospel of Grace we say we believe. It goes against any image of a loving God. It goes against the doctrine of Humanity that we preach. So what else could we say?
Another metaphor we use is economic. Jesus paid a price that only he could pay. Very similar, but a debt instead of a blood ransom. This also is problematic, in that it discounts us similarly to the first.
But what might it mean for us to think about the Cross of Christ and the Cross we are called to pick up, if we saw it as the gift that only we can give? What if there is something that only Christ could do? What if our Cross is a gift that only we can give? We are empowered and enabled to be who we are born to be by giving our full self in love, as did Christ.
Think of how that elevates our role in the world. Think of how beautiful and unique and ultimately precious each and every soul is!
Jesus gives us the gift that only we can give. And calls us to follow him in giving it away.
He calls us to die to self, or is it better seen as our selfishness? What if he is calling us to not hold tight what has been given to us, our talents, our time, our treasure, and we are able to share with all our family, our human family, the gifts that only we can give?
The Cross is our ability to share what makes us our highest and best self! It is the gift of the call of Christ to call us to that. It is in following Jesus that this level of Grace is even possible.
He models the Grace he calls us to embody. His metaphor is the very gift only he could give.
For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, so that whoever believes in him should not perish by have everlasting [complete, whole, fully actualized] life. For Christ came into the world not to judge [condemn, destroy] the world, but that the world through him might be saved. John 3:16-17
What I am talking about here is not so radical, but rather what we have been invited to from the teachings of Christ. How freeing! How beautiful! How needed still! Amen