Lent 2 :: Bearing the Cross

2009 UK Trip  101

Cross at Lindisfarne Abbey

Okay. So let’s get one thing perfectly clear: Bearing one’s cross has nothing to do with putting up with a spouse or partner who snores! Nor has it to do with picking up after your messy children, or suffering through a third grade oboe recital, or having to deal with a teacher [or parent, or boss!] who “just doesn’t get it,” or with a little brother [or sister!] who pesters you all the time. None of these situations [and so, so many more] have absolutely anything to do with denying yourself, taking up your cross, and following Jesus. We put up with these sorts of daily nuisances because that is what people do in order to live together, maintain a job [or relationship or grade-point average] and build community. It’s not about bearing your cross. Nuff said….

So. What does Jesus mean when he tells his disciples [you know, us] that if any want to become his followers they need to deny self and take up their cross and follow? Well, we have only to look at Jesus’ life—and death—to understand.

Jesus’ total devotion to doing the will of God meant giving everything for others. It meant risking ridicule, chastisement, ostracism, persecution, rejection, and freedom in order to proclaim the Good News of love, forgiveness, mercy, justice, and hope. And it meant doing all these things even to the point of losing his own life. Which is, of course, the irony behind losing one’s life in order to save it.

This devotion to God through giving-of-self-to-others is so counterintuitive that the only way we can seem to wrap our heads around it is to do to the cross—that horrible instrument of death—that which we so often do to anything we find incomprehensible to understand. We take it’s power away. By superficially ascribing to the cross our “suffering” at the hands of those who irritate us [the spouse who snores, the brother who pesters, etc., etc., etc.] we make the cross nothing more than a crutch we lean on in order to exact sympathy from others.

Okay. So this might be just a tad bit of an exaggeration, but it is meant to try and prove a point: We strip the cross of its power when we refuse to fully understand the truth of what it means to deny self and bear it ourselves. Unless we are willing to lay down our lives for others—for our enemies, or those who hate us and wish us harm, or those whom we find it difficult to love [much less like!]—unless we are truly willing to seek justice and mercy instead of retribution and retaliation, unless we are willing to seek reconciliation instead of holding grudges, unless we are willing to love and not hate, then the cross is nothing more than a trinket we wear to adorn our wardrobes or a piece of furniture we put in our churches. When Jesus says we must take up our cross to follow him, he means nothing less than that we be willing to get up on it ourselves. Like he did.


Link to RCL Lectionary for the 2nd Sunday in Lent

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