The more that we can change our point of view and look at things from God's perspective, then the clearer it becomes for us.
Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. Mark 8:34The season of Lent we can't go through without confronting the cross. The cross is a central symbol of our faith because it's a central concept of Christian faith. Jesus only carried the physical cross one day, but yet as we hear him speaking and preaching and talking about the things to come, especially in this gospel passage and then become... It's very apparent that his mind was on the cross and on what was coming that one day and everything that was leading up to it.
The cross is a symbol for us, both life and of death, and after the death of Christ the cross it still became central in our faith and focus as the event from which Christ was resurrected, and after which the church was empowered and it still becomes in. And then what Jesus lifts up in this gospel reading today is that we each have a cross to bear. And for most people, it is not a physical cross, but for some people it has been.
Transcript of sermon
Preached Extemporaneously [Video] on February 28, 2021
for Briensburg UMC
For most people, it does not mean the level of suffering that Jesus experienced, but for some people that has meant that, but for all of us, it does mean our sense of purpose and responsibility and direction and the price we're willing to pay, to be disciples of Jesus, to be able to lay aside other things and focus on the things that are the most important, which is the exercise of lent and the purpose of lamp to help us to practice that and to step back from a lot of the things we normally do every day and to put Christ at the center.
And if there's any place then Christ has, -- that we've drifted from Christ being at the center in our lives, -- that's our cross. And in this passage, Jesus began to teach them, as it says, in the King James and said that, "He would be rejected and he would be executed and that he would rise again," this resurrection was still a foreign concept for them and for us sometimes difficult to wrap our minds around as well, but we had a little clearer picture than I did prior to all of this, that because we have all the events and the sermons that have been preached on those events and the messages and everything that's been handed down to us in the hymns. We sang in the celebrations that we continue every Sunday and every year at Easter.
Rejection and Resurrection
And he began to teach them, that the Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders, and of the chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. Vs 31 (KJV)
Peter pushed back on that as we'd probably all would, but there is a tendency to push back against the idea of suffering as a part of our faith, especially because of our faith and the difficulties and challenges that we make without having positive attitude and feel like we're going to just breeze through everything because... And especially that where people of faith that everything will be easy, but as we know from experience, that's a skewed interpretation because it's not that things are easy are that we skate through life, but that God is with us, helping us send that our faith sustains us through the difficulties.
“Satan, get behind me! You are looking at this only from a human point of view and not from God’s.” Vs 33 (TLB)
And I'm using the term paradigm shift to explain Jesus's answer to Peter, and this is from the Living Bible, he said, "Satan, get behind me. You are looking at this only from a human point of view and not from God's."
That word has become popular in our use over the last several decades of a paradigm shift or a change in perspective. And a lot of us because of the modern advances of science has changed our whole perception of things and when something fundamental and central something core to our whole experience and perception of the world around us. When that changes, then it ripples out across our lives, it reverberates throughout our lives and the lives of our community and world, because then we have to take another look at everything else that's affected by that and how we understand it. And one of the great ones I think of is the concept of the shape of the world, because for all of humanity until just a short time ago everybody thought the world was flat.
And all their research and all of their theology and their science and everything else was based on that concept. Back then when there was discovered the world was round and everything that goes with that it began rippling through everything, and the first thing that happened was rejection and people were angry and mad to even have that concept brought up and people were tortured and executed and punished in many ways for believing in that and for following that or promoting that idea in any way, but gradually as people came to understand that that was the truth, then it reshaped the way that people did everything else, navigation, science, everything else changed, and it continues to evolve around a new concept, a new perception that is more true and more accurate, and it makes everything else line up a lot better.
And then in the last couple of centuries all of the... the word paradigm comes out of to some of the changes in thinking that were discovered by science over the last century, especially in new views that help us to realize everything isn't how we might've thought it was. And to think of that then in the terms of the cross and in terms of Christ, what he said here, "You're only looking at it from the human point of view and not from God's."
And they were several things that Jesus taught about. One that we've been speaking of quite a bit here lately, is that idea that from God's perspective, everyone who ever lived is still alive from our human perspective, when the body is laid aside, when the earthly tabernacle is laid side then it's hard for us to wrap our mind around that continuing life of the spirit. And Christ invites us to look at things from God's perspective and as we can see that's a lot hopeful, it's a lot more eternal and it has a lot more depth and richness and brings us joy and comfort and brings us hope for the future to look at things through God's eyes, life and death and the cross and suffering and all that we share together in the spirit.
The more that we can change our point of view and look at things from God's perspective, then the clearer it becomes for us. And that's what I think what we want to do when we read the Bible.
When we sing the hymns of the church and when we pray, when we have our fellowship together and when we engage with other people its to see each other, the way that God sees us, and you hear the word the way that God speaks it, to feel the connection and the life that from God's perspective, which we can't just flip a switch or snap our fingers and make that happen. That's something that we grow into another good thing about Lent to give us that time to support each other and encourage each other of all different denominations and everything else to just take that personal time to grow in the spirit and to work with our perception of how things are, come and try to look at things more deeply from the spiritual point of view, that makes it pretty personal.
“If any of you want to come with me,” he told them, “you must forget yourself, carry your cross, and follow me.” Vs 34 (GNT)
A cross. though it's personal, it's something that we share together. Humanity shares in the suffering as we have in this pandemic, shared the suffering and yet there's something very personal about it because we share in all of that and yet it affects each single one of us in a different way. And the same with the cross. As the Good News says, "If any of you want to come with me, told them, you must forget yourself, carry your cross, and follow me." And that is easier said than done sometimes, but with thinking of our cross as our personal responsibility and our personal opportunities and then we take those we shoulder them every day, as he says, in other places, do this daily, make this the big rock in the jar and make this the focal point of our day to take up that cross and let everything else fall in around it and carry that cross and follow Christ, implement his teachings, implement his viewpoint and implement his guidance in our daily lives, in the response to the situations of the day.
And then the embracing of the opportunities and it becomes very personal, but yet shared with everybody else who is taking up their cross. And together we follow Christ.
What Matters Most
What good would it do to get everything you want and lose you, the real you? Vs 36 (MSG)
When there were several verses in this gospel reading that challenge us about what's the most important in our lives and about the importance of following Christ and of the spiritual life for us, what matters most in the message verse 36 says, "what good would it do to get everything you want and lose you, the real you?"
That's a good question and it pulls a lot together there, but what good is it? If we have all of the things that we can think of and that we pursue and there would be things that would be temporal that would turn into just sand would fall through our fingers. Then that would not be lasting, but like Jesus invites us to lay up our treasure in heaven with lasting treasure eternal treasure, where nothing can hurt or destroy it where it's always going to be there. And we can always be relying on him and using it. What good does it do if we just lose that what's most important to us about life and about ourselves and the things that we wanted most in life? And we miss all of those for things that really didn't matter, but they just got in the way and we got lost in them instead that would be not so good and the real shame.
The Real Shame
“If any of you are embarrassed over me and the way I’m leading you when you get around your fickle and unfocused friends, know that you’ll be an even greater embarrassment to the Son of Man when he arrives in all the splendor of God, his Father, with an army of the holy angels.” . Vs 38 (MSG)
That's the shame of it and Jesus concludes this passage here by bringing up, I'm going to read it from The Message in verse 38, "If any of you are embarrassed over me and the way I'm leading you when you get around your fickle and unfocused friends, know that you'll be an even greater embarrassment to the Son of Man when he arrives in all the splendor of God, his Father, with an army of the holy angels." I think that probably the worst fight that associate with a judgment day is the sense of embarrassment where that we will be embarrassed.
And I don't like to be embarrassed. I don't know anybody who does, but if we're embarrassed, sometimes I think [inaudible 00:15:07] at the beginning, as we look at that, who's pointed out if we're embarrassed or shamed as the other translations say of Jesus, when we get together with other people and we're talking about things and we allow their views on everything that we disagree with and we don't believe in and everything, but we let that all stand and we are too shy or embarrassed to stand up for what we believe in and for the love and the goodness of Christ because we don't want to be embarrassed.
Then that's going to come back around and we will find ourselves even more embarrassed and as Jesus puts it, If we're embarrassed about him, If we're ashamed of him, he'll be ashamed of us and embarrassed by us. And I look at that from God's perspective, I guess that would make God feel bad. I guess you could say and it would be like, hey, what's going on here? I thought you were my disciple. I thought that you loved me and you're letting yourself be influenced by people that don't care about not about God, but don't why?
The things that people might care about today and tomorrow, they don't even remember anything about it. It's a pretty challenging thing there I think is for us as we take up our cross to do so gladly and to take a stand on the things that we need to take a stand on and not rudely or anything like that, but also not in a way that is insignificant and try to do things that minister our gifts and our graces in effective ways.
We take up our cross and we follow Christ and we're glad to do so and we're glad for everybody in it to know that we're doing this because we love Christ and we know that Christ loves us and we're helping the brain. We're trying to change our own view to be what God would have us to match up with God's view that invites us into, and at the same time, we're trying to change the world. One person, one neighbor, one family, one conversation at a time and `let us take up our cross and follow Christ. Amen.