Der Vasken's Sermon on September 23, 2018

Oct 1, 2018

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

Today is Sunday, September 23.  It is a Sunday that uniquely falls between two Sundays each dedicated to a feast of the Holy Cross.  Last Sunday was the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross and we blessed basil and spoke about why we do that each year.  And next Sunday is another feast of the Holy Cross--one of my favorite days dedicated to the Cross of Christ and we will talk about why next week.

So today we are in a unique position to talk a little about the Cross of Jesus--not from an historical perspective but from the perspective of what it means to our lives.  There is a Gospel reading that captures an important moment in Jesus' life that I want to share with you today.  Let me describe a little background.  Here is what is happening: It's very early in Christ's ministry.  He begins in the north in the area of the Sea of Galilee and then starts a long journey south toward the City of Jerusalem.  In the Bible, this journey lasts for ten chapters.  It was there, on that journey, that Jesus shared what it means to be a disciple and what it means to follow Him, and people followed Him in droves--big crowds, huge crowds.  They followed Him wherever He went. 

When He spoke about self-centered people--selfish people--the crowds cheered Him on.  When He criticized the religious elite and called them out for being beautifully clothed on the outside but empty and rotten on the inside, the people loved it.  When Jesus spoke out against the legalistic, nit-picking writers of the day, they thought He was great.  When He pointed His finger at the immorality in the world, they said He was right on.  But then Jesus stops.  He turns around and faces the crowds and He says to them:

  • "Now, what about you?
  • Are you ready to follow Me?
  • Are you willing to carry a cross?"
He looked at them.  They looked at Him.  And there was silence, and that silence was deafening.  So what does this mean to us today?  For some people that silence hasn't gone away.  They don't say "yes" and they don't say "no."  People would follow Jesus but they don't want anything to do with carrying a cross.  But what He is telling the crowd to hear and what He is telling us to hear is this:  The Cross is the "proving ground" of our discipleship.  It's where we show our loyalty to Christ--our fidelity to God. 

Like those crowds, we can be fans of Jesus because He had wonderful things to say, and great stories to tell, and He spoke beautiful Words.  But Christians don't simply quote Jesus.  They follow Him and they follow Him carrying their cross.  We all have a cross.  

  • It can be the cross of a family problem--an illness, a troubling person at work.
  • It can be a personality trait that we have and can't seem to shake.
  • It can be responsibilities that we have or issues within our family that we don't know how to make better.
Every cross is unique.  Our cross is like our fingerprint.  No two are the same.  Two people may have the same illness but their pain is experienced differently and personally.  Carrying our cross is our way of helping to do the work of God in this world.  The cross is a part of everyone's life.  We can either stare at the cross, complain about it, curse it, ignore it, deny it or follow Christ by carrying it forward.  Denying our cross doesn't bring us closer to God, but picking it up and carrying it forward does.

There is also another kind of cross that we carry as a Church.  That's the cross of passing on the faith to the next generation.  It's never easy.  The culture around us makes it very hard.  Yet we plant the seeds and those seeds have produced fruit over the generations. They produced the people, who filled these pews over the years and fill them today. 

We can walk with Christ either as a fan in the crowd or as a committed disciple.  It's one or the other.  A fan will hear about the message of Christ, but only a disciple will know the faith, hope and love the message offers him or her.  So think about how you would answer these questions:

  • Do you carry a cross in life today?
  • If not, what stands in your way of picking up your cross and following Him?
The cross can change us from being a fan of Christ to being a disciple of Christ.
  • Do you carry a cross in life today?
  • If not, what stands in your way of picking up your cross and following Him?
Something for all of us to think about.

Amen.