Take up your Cross daily…
Today’s lectionary reading comes from Luke’s Gospel, chapter 9. Appropriately for the beginning of Lent, it includes the well-known passage where Jesus tells not just the disciples, but us all: “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their Cross daily and follow me.”
Particularly in Lent, this sentence—this invitation to us—carries at least three meanings.
First, it points us to Good Friday, and Jesus’s death on the Cross. It is a reminder as we prepare for Easter that the resurrection is preceded, as it must be, by death on Good Friday.
Second, it points to the costs, real and metaphorical, of discipleship today. This is not an easy path, but one of denial and sometimes hardship. In certain parts of the world today, to be a Christian is to invite violence and more. In others, it invites derision or condescension. To take up the Cross today, the way of the Cross may be the path to our own Calvary.
Third, it points out to us that in following the way of the Cross, we are called upon to step outside the norms and practices of the world. The denial Jesus calls for may be literal—as in giving things up, whether that be food, or luxuries, or family and friends—as we travel the way. But it is also metaphorical, in that it calls upon us to deny the power over us of the structures of this world—what St Paul calls the “principalities and powers”—in order to travel the way of salvation that God has opened us to us. We have to deny those things, and the worldly pleasures and (transitory) satisfactions that go with them, in order to be able truly to daily take up our Cross.
And one final thought that ties all three of these together is another statement by Paul about how the Cross is a stumbling block to Jews, and foolishness to the Greeks (Gentiles). In the eyes of the world, Jesus’ death on the Cross was unnecessary, makes no sense. In the eyes of the world, individuals today taking up their own Cross at physical or material cost to themselves makes no sense. And in the eyes of the world, turning away from the structures—and pleasures—of this world to a promised, but unverifiable future, makes no sense. And yet, with faith, this is, daily, what we must try to do.
The Rev. William Morris, Assisting Priest for Engaging Local Communities
Links to the appointed readings and prayer for today: