Year B Proper 19 WEDNESDAY, 15 September 2021
St. James the Less Episcopal, Ashland, VA
“Follow Closely” remembering Holy Cross Day
Collect: O God, because without you we are not able to please you, mercifully grant that your Holy Spirit may in all things direct and rule our hearts; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
As he walked by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea-- for they were fishermen. And he said to them, "Follow me, and I will make you fish for people." Immediately they left their nets and followed him. As he went from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John, in the boat with their father Zebedee, mending their nets, and he called them. Immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed him. Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and curing every disease and every sickness among the people. So his fame spread throughout all Syria, and they brought to him all the sick, those who were afflicted with various diseases and pains, demoniacs, epileptics, and paralytics, and he cured them. And great crowds followed him from Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea, and from beyond the Jordan.
I always bring my questions to this passage.
Did they already know about Jesus? This differs from Mark so they may have.
Would I have dropped everything like they did? When I followed Christ it was as a child being reared in a Christian home, with Sunday School teachers, Youth Ministers, Choir Directors, and Pastors all modeling for me what I was saying yes to, as much as I could know.
But Jesus walks in on them at work, and calls them to abandon their trade, their family, their everything, and bet it all on an unknown. He must have been very persuasive, or highly attractive in his offer compared to what they knew and were beholden to maintain.
Jesus is very clear in his teaching later, you are expected to take up your cross and follow him. That is a one-way trip. Yesterday was Holy Cross Day, and it has been something followers of Jesus take on for a long time. Do we really know what it means?
(From Laurie Gudim, Holy Cross Day, 14 September 2021, https://www.episcopalcafe.com/holy-cross-day/)
Holy Cross Day began clear back in 335 at the dedication of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, which was built over the site in Israel upon which Saint Helena, Constantine’s mother, discovered what she believed to be the True Cross. It is the celebration of the cross itself as the instrument of salvation.
For the first Christians, the cross was not a symbol with which one would want to be associated. The Romans used crucifixion commonly as a means of punishing wrongdoing and insurrection, and crosses, with their gristly burdens of dead and decaying bodies, were frequently to be seen at the edges of towns. It must have been terrifying to imagine winding up on a cross. Why would a person want to use one as an emblem?
These days we Christians use the cross almost universally to signify who we are. Crosses are all over the place – on the fronts of churches, on stationary, tattooed onto people’s arms or legs, worn as jewelry. Priests make the sign of the cross when they bless people. Our foreheads are marked with the cross when we are baptized or anointed.
We probably would not wear a hangman’s noose or an electric chair necklace, but we put on a cross easily and readily. When I put on my vestments, kissing my stole is part of the dressing. “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me.” The stole is my yoke. Thanks be to God. I kiss my cross. “May I never boast of anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” Galatians 6:14
We need to always be careful of who we follow. We all can think of cautionary tales, Hitler, Spartacus, or like Jim Jones in San Francisco and down in Guayana, etc. Who we follow determines so many of the choices we will make, right or wrong.
I hope today you will choose to follow closely the one who calls us all. There is no greater choice in this world, or the world to come. Amen.