8-30-16 - Cross Purposes

This Sunday’s gospel passage begins, "Now large crowds were travelling with him… " I wonder how large the crowds were when Jesus was done talking. Was he trying to cull out the faddiests and thrill-seekers with his talk of “hating” your mother and father, and “carrying your cross?’

“Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.”
Talking about “carrying your cross” to subjects in a Roman colony might just do it – the cross was a terrifying and horrific imperial instrument of execution. I can imagine a few people in that crowd pausing, letting themselves fall back to the margins, and slinking off home.

I might have been one of them. If we interpret “carry the cross” as “embrace your suffering,” as some have done for centuries, I won’t rush forward to sign up. But then, I don’t believe God desires suffering for his beloved, despite passages in the bible that suggest it can be part of God’s plan. I believe God shows up in the midst of the suffering that comes our way; that God’s power and love can redeem and transform it into an opportunity for healing and growth.

So how else might we interpret “carry your cross?” One meaning might be, "Take up your ministry, commit yourself to your part within the whole of God’s mission of restoration and reconciliation." The way each of us is called to participate in God’s mission is a product of our gifts, our passions and our circumstances – and the leading of the Holy Spirit. It is not something we undertake alone. We undertake it with the second half of that imperative, “and follow me.” As we become people of purpose following Christ, using our gifts, filled and guided by the Holy Spirit, we find ourselves more focused and peaceful.

The fullness of Jesus’ ministry involved suffering on the cross. Because he did, we don’t have to. We may be asked to sacrifice some of our resources, our prerogatives, our agenda; we might even encounter resistance and suffering, but not because suffering is redemptive – because passionate engagement in God’s mission transforms us and the world.

What do you see as one of your ministries as a Christ-follower? Where do your gifts, passions and life- circumstances intersect? (Try listing some of your gifts, your passions, and think through your circumstances: where do you live, what do you do, who do you live with, who do you live around? That's important data.)

Do you feel asked to sacrifice, “lay down,” any of your preferences or resources to make space for others? To alleviate suffering for other people? Have a conversation with Jesus about the answers you come up with.

Finding our way into God’s mission is a lifetime vocation.At different times in our lives we’re called to live out our mission in different ways. Where will you “carry the cross” today?

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