Thought for the Day: These two verses were included in Sunday’s sermon text, but I did not really reference them much. It was a rather meaty section of scripture, and I have the bad habit of biting off more than I can chew in a single sermon. Unlike previous references to taking up the cross, Jesus uses it here in a way that might even sound threatening. I believe Matthew, the Gospel writer, wanted his audience to feel some discomfort. A preacher can, on occasion, employ a little pressure with hyperbole, an amplification of the consequences. Jesus suggested that anyone who did not take up the cross would be unworthy of him, yet isn’t the Gospel a message of grace — based on the idea that no one is worthy of such breathtaking and relentless love? It almost sounds as if Jesus was pleading with them to do something that acknowledged a hint of appreciation. Now was Jesus requesting our lives literally hanging from an executioner’s tool? I can’t say for sure, but many of his early followers knew that experience firsthand. The image of cross-bearing is powerful, especially in light of the crucifixion. Maybe I’m watering it down a little, but I believe we are on a daily quest for opportunities to take up the cross and to find ways of losing our lives. Many of opportunities will probably not be as dramatic or memorable as the crucifixion, but when the whole Body of Christ sets out on this quest every morning, the collective impact can be revolutionary. I am reminded of Edward Everett Hale who wrote,
“I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something; And because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do the something that I can do.”
Prayer: Where to begin, O Lord who loves us even when our lives unworthy of that love? Where do we begin to live lives that resemble the cross-bearing love of Jesus? Put before us an opportunity to participate in the larger work of sacrifice made real through the full body of Christ. Amen.
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