Proverbs 1: 20-33; Psalm 116: 1-9; Mark 8: 27-38
Pearl: Christ followers also bear crosses.
Function: To prepare listeners to expect resistance and threats, even persecution for following Christ as Lord, Head of the Church.
Our summer series on following your Lord Jesus is a series which really cannot have an ending. Following your Lord Jesus is an ongoing subject because since we live under the Headship of Jesus Christ you and I will always need coaching and direction on the life to which we are called in Christ Jesus.
- Coaching is a good concept for Christ followers. A coach is not only a teacher but an encourager. A coach is a motivator.
- Followers of Jesus need motivation and encouragement.
- And followers of Jesus also need reality.
- It would be wrong to give the impression that following Christ is only wonderful and good and bright and shining. It truly is all of these things. But there is also a side which any good coach reveals to the team. The realities of what will be faced need to be stated.
- Jesus clearly said that following him would lead you to a similar fate as what befell him.
- He spelled it out clearly: “If you want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me” (Mk. 8:34).
- So Jesus asked his followers to follow him. But he also spelled out that following him will lead to adversity, even personal peril.
- Jesus suffered death on the cross for representing an alternative kingdom from the kingdom of Rome, and a different God than Lord Caesar.
- For this he was put to death on the cross.
- When I thought about Jesus’ statement the notion of taking up your cross infers that there are people who want you eliminated because of your allegiance to Christ. There is no way to soften this pronouncement of the Lord Jesus.
Being a disciple of Jesus Christ involves denying self, bearing a cross, and following the Way of Christ.
You have decided to follow Jesus, as the favorite hymn suggests. You sing it happily.
- You made your decision happily! Whether as a young person through the Confirmation process or over time, or even in a dramatic way, you have happily made this decision as a response to the great and deep love of God. You have felt God’s love and you find that you love God in return.
- You realized that the Way of Jesus, what he taught and represented, was a beautiful, shining life.
- So Jesus Christ brightens your life and you realize that this new life is also a life and a calling to representing and extending this same “bright, shining life” in the world and to others. Praise the Lord! //
- But all Christ followers who absorb this wonderful life discover that there is a realm which opposes this bright shining life at every opportunity. For reasons unknown and without logic, opposition comes to this bright shining life.
- There are those who block the light and try to keep others from knowing it.
- When the light is shining strong, burning boldly, opposition to this beautiful, shining, gospel light organizes and cannot tolerate it.
- The opposition is not always even clearly seen. The tension is subtle and on many levels. And we can find ourselves even being a part of this opposition.
- Take Peter for example. Jesus had to jolt him harshly, even calling him Satan for opposing Jesus’ Way.
- God help us all, who wish to follow Jesus, to be with him more than we would be against him!
- In all honesty, we do some flipping back and forth.
- Thankfully, our Lord is patient and full of grace.
- Nonetheless, Jesus clearly warns us and encourages us at the same time.
Following Christ, as beautiful and shining a life that it is, can mean some stiff adversity and even persecution, maybe even death to followers of Christ.
- Thankfully, in the United States we don’t have some of the dangers that exist in other places where being known as a Christ follower could alone mean peril.
- But representing Jesus Way can easily get us into “good trouble” as the late John Lewis put it.
- Based on what Jesus said about “taking up your cross,” “good trouble” can and should be expected by followers of Jesus, even in our country.
- The other day I was weeding around our house and when I was about to finish I decided to work on one more area. I pulled out a couple of tall weeds. All of a sudden I am feeling stinging pain in my hand. I look and it is a Yellow Jacket getting me on a finger. I swat him and he gets my hand. Then he is on my other hand. Then I start seeing other Yellow Jackets. I take flight from that scene. It turned out to be a very large in-ground nest.
- When you take up the cause of underdogs; when you look out for refugees; when you work to right wrongs; when you try to dismantle structural racism; when you refuse to kick those who are down and out; when you call out the privileged who get all of the breaks…it is like disturbing a massive yellow jacket nest.
- You get into “good trouble.” It is the way of life for disciples of Jesus.
- It is the bright, shining life, but it will get you into good trouble.
- The yellow jackets who oppose disciples of Jesus are the principalities and the powers which our Lord came up against again and again.
- Those same principalities and powers of old continue today just as much as they ever did for Jesus. Two thousand year’s since Jesus lived is not long at all.
- The contest between love and hate is ancient and ongoing.
- But…the good news is that the war is won. Love wins.
- Love is stronger and more powerful, even if love gets you killed.
- Love was crucified…but on the third day love rose from the dead!
September 11, twenty years later, we remember how so many good souls ran directly into peril due to an oath they took to deny themselves for the sake of others. They all demonstrated the ethic of Jesus who said, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.”
- The entry way into the “cross-training” life of Jesus is through denying self. You enter into Jesus’ way by doing for others before doing for self.
- Like some of the folk that pastor Phyllis Kersten described:
- Chris, who became the court-appointed guardian for a developmentally disabled church member. Chris watches over his care in the nursing home and through periodic hospital stays.
- Lauren helps support Mary, a former special education teacher who is in a care facility due to multiple sclerosis. Mary could not attend her mother’s funeral service so Lauren went in Mary’s stead and reported back to her on every detail of the service.
- I can think of example after example of you Highlanders setting your own interests aside for the sake of others. You know how to deny self. It is the entry way, the portal into the “cross-training” life.
- Like some of the folk that pastor Phyllis Kersten described:
The life of disciples of Jesus is the bright, shining, gospel life. But don’t be surprised when the good trouble comes. It comes to those who deny themselves and take up their crosses to follow the Way of Jesus.
And you who get into “good trouble” are those of whom your Lord Jesus will not be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father and the holy angels!