Most protestant churches have crosses in their sanctuary but not crucifixes. They havethe resurrected Christ of Sunday. Most catholic churches have crucifixes. They have the Good Friday crucified Christ cross.
In our passage, Mark 8:34-38, Jesus calls his disciples and the crowd to come closer. He’s about to make an impor-tant announcement. He’s going to lay out the facts as clearly as he can.
In order to be one of his followers, Jesus says that there are three steps. 1. Deny yourself 2. Take up your cross 3. Follow me
In the Roman Empire, there was only one use for the cross. The cross was capital punishment leveled against ene-mies of the state. The cross humiliated and shamed the convicted. The punishment was public, in a place where many could see him die a slow, agonizing death. The criminal was naked. It was an extremely effective deterrent against insurgents, both political and military.
We must deny ourselves as we follow in the steps of Jesus: healing the sick, taking in the ostracized, challenging hypocritical religious hierarchy, performing miracles, feeding the hungry, not caring if a person was Jew or Gentile, Protestant or Catholic, Muslim or Hindu, healthy or sick, black or white, young or old, man or woman if they were in need of his touch and ours.
We all may not be crucified for what we do in our ministry but we will come upon crosses in our lives that may crush us. An alcoholic spouse or loved one. A church with more month than money. A community that doesn’t want a family shelter in their neighborhood. We cannot let these crosses allow us to trade our souls for a world of quiet des-peration.
But the crucified Christ …
There is a reality to this Christ that allows for pain, hurt and doubt. Horrible and unjust things can and do hap-pen. Death seemingly occurs everywhere and can strike anyone instantly. Taking up our crosses will not be easy, indeed it may be deadly as it was to Jesus. It may test our faith and our bodies as we meet resistance to the cross.
Blessedly we take up two crosses, the crucified one and the empty one. The empty one usually turns into the cruci-fied one. But by the power of the love and grace of our God, the crucified cross becomes the empty cross once again. It is bloodied, the wood splintered by nails, but it is empty. The question is who will take it up now and fol-low Jesus?
Stay with us to find out.
Please remember to be generous during this season of Lent
*Spiritual Giving e-newsletter (03/25/2014)
April 6, 2014
Aldersgate United Methodist Church Rock Hill, SC www.aumcrockhill.com
Open Hearts, Open Minds, Open Door