Tag Archives: pick up your cross

Mark 8:31-38 and the cross

After I have shared a scripture in storytelling form (by heart), afterward there is this beautiful peace in my mind and heart. It can last a week or so. It is just the most quiet calm feeling. My brain, heart, body was working so hard to learn the passage and after, suddenly, a welcome silence.

Last Sunday I shared Mark 8:31-38 and it went well (I think). For the first time I used a lapel mic and that gave me more freedom to turn, although I kept my feet planted. (Some storytellers move all over of course, and maybe some day for some story I might. But I like to feel grounded.) I turned first as Peter taking Jesus aside to rebuke him; then turned the other way to show that Jesus, when rebuking Peter, was not doing it in front of everyone. Their argument was in private. In verse 34, Jesus calls the crowd and the disciples back to him (and Peter) and says, that to follow him, you have to deny yourself, and pick up your cross and follow him.” So I tried with my turning to show the various movements of the story.

Now what is “your cross”? What is my cross? What does that even mean? Does it mean face your fears? Or maybe find your joy? Or speak truth to power? Or change, move, learn, grow, do … something? Something unique to us or something everyone can do (if only we all would), like just … what? The cross was an extremely painful death, and one with shame in it. I read this murder mystery a couple weeks ago and there was a scene of the death of a death row inmate. Painful. Justice? In this particular mystery it wasn’t justice. And the inmate had a family member there, who was deeply shamed and deeply grieving a life lost, “wasted”. Her life too was shamed and wasted. Perhaps Jesus’s death on a cross was intended by the Romans, rather like our death penalty, not just to deter crimes of rebellion against the state, not just to inflict a terrible death, but to shame the “criminal” and the criminal’s family? How did that work out for the Romans?

The cross then for me – should I expect to be facing something equally painful, equally hard?

Which, you know, I don’t want to especially.

And I wonder if too many of us hear “pick up your cross” to mean “pick up your cross like a sword and swing it at people”.

I feel that it is Easter that changes me, you, the world…. Hold on to your cross and feel it, and sorrow. Envision what things would be like without that to bear, without that sorrow. Envision how to create that world, full of love and joy and hope and trust. Easter is coming.

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Luke 14:25-33

Luke 14:25-33 may be one of the lectionary readings that will be used in my church on Sept 4; and I’ll be the lay reader. So I’ve been studying it because it is really difficult. Why is Jesus saying you have to hate to be a disciple? And the lesson so often drawn, that he just wants us to make a cost-benefit analysis of following him, seems —  cliche-ish to me. Really? Jesus wants us to analyze following him? What happened to just giving water to the thirsty?

Certainly, you have to know your priorities and having wives and children and so on will limit with actions you can take in the world; analyzing that has to be proper, yes?

Here’s some thoughts:

*This is specific to those following him to Jerusalem, where he is going to die and it is going to be very dangerous.

*This seems specific to men “…wives and children”

*Following this passage this the “lost things” passages: the sheep, the coin, the son….There is a surprisingly neglected “cost-benefit” analysis type of thinking that could be represented in those passages too. It is foolish to leave your flock to look for just one sheep. It is foolish to spend all the effort to recover a lost coin. It is foolish to welcome back a son who is a wastrel, a rascal, only coming home because otherwise he dies. Yet those stories (among the many other things they reveal) sort of show that our God is a foolishly loving and hard-at-work God, who will search and keep every sheep, every coin, every lost child.

*The passages before this one are “banquet” passages/parables that I have not studied in depth, but seem to be concerned with community and inclusion.

*At various places in scripture Jesus/God is referred to or symbolized as a Builder and a King. Perhaps there is more to the examples than random-ness….

*Why is Jesus talking about “carrying a cross”? Even if He knew he was to die that way, the people listening didn’t, right? The footnote in my study bible refers back to Luke 9:23-27 which also talks about discipleship and that disciples will have to “take up their cross daily” and follow him. Perhaps this was a common metaphor for trouble. I’ve been taught that crucifixions were, while maybe not “common”, but were well-known, well-understood to a terrible thing, a terrible death. I still find this image really kind of shocking, kind of emotional. Did the original listeners? Did they think, “whoa a cross? I don’t want anything to do with a cross?” Or were they expecting a revolution, to overthrow the Romans, and thought “yes, I’ll do whatever it takes, even if it means the cross.” I just don’t know if I understand this.

So suddenly Jesus is excluding people, and urging them to be strategic… suddenly he is saying following him has a price, not just a healing, not just a dinner, not just joy.

Here’s what I think, or wonder: perhaps Jesus has turned and said this to the followers as a way of saying “don’t hurt me, don’t change my message” — I’m the Builder of a tower, I’ve laid a foundation. If you can’t finish the building with me, don’t mess up those who can, don’t bring ridicule on me. Perhaps Jesus is saying — I’m the King, I’m seriously undermanned in this fight against evil, but I’m fighting anyway. You can leave, with my peace and my blessing, if this evil would overwhelm you and thus weaken me.

So, maybe he is saying to these followers, at this time, to be a disciple now is to say goodbye to family, to home, to comfort, to ease — your “possessions” — and follow me to this last fight? And maybe there is also a message that staying home and being faithful in a smaller way, in a smaller fight, is okay too — just stay “salt-y”, be truly yourself in how you follow Him.

It is quite possible that I’m just resisting the message of having to give up all my possessions…. it could be that simple. This is a hard passage.