Der Vasken's Sermon on January 13, 2019

Jan 15, 2019

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

We've heard a lot of news-worthy and not so news-worthy stories these last number of days coming out of our Nation's Capital.  We heard a lot about the government shut-down and about building a wall, and how many believe it's the right thing to do and many believe it's not the right thing to do.  And we, also, heard leaders from all areas of the government explain to us why their commitment and their position on these issues is the right one for our country. And around here, we've, also, heard a lot of stories surrounding a football game that is due to start in about ninety minutes from now that will, hopefully, bring us closer to another championship, and that we should stay committed in our support of our local team.

So, today, I thought I would speak about what it means to be committed--not being committed to a particular political position or to "arm-chair quarterbacking," but about commitment to our faith.  Today's Gospel reading captures an important moment in Jesus' life that speaks to this point.

Let me describe a little background.  Here's what's happening. It's very early in Christ's ministry.  He begins in the North in the region of the Sea of Galilee and then starts a long journey South toward the City of Jerusalem.  In the Bible, this journey lasts for as many as 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 because people physically followed Him everywhere He went.  His presence drew big crowds.  Huge crowds of people came out to hear Him and touch Him regularly.  They followed Him wherever He went.

  • When He spoke about the selfish ways of people in general, the crowds understood what He meant.
  • When He criticized the religious leaders and called them out for being beautifully clothed on the outside but corrupt and rotten on the inside, the people were pleased that finally someone had the courage to speak the truth.
  • When Jesus spoke out against the meaningless legalistic ways of the day, they cheered His name.
  • And when He pointed His finger at the evil in the world, they said He was right on.
And so they followed Him because they liked His message, but then Jesus stops talking and turns His attention to the individuals in the crowd and He says to them,
  • "Now, what about you?
  • Do you agree with Me?
  • Are you ready to follow Me?
  • Are you personally willing to carry a cross?"
He looked at them and there was silence and that silence was thunderous.  So what does this mean to us today?  For some people they still hear the silence.  They don't answer His question.  These people 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. A cross is carried upon the shoulders of all of His disciples.  The cross is how we show our loyalty to Christ--our commitment to God. 

Like those crowds, we, too, 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 what Jesus said.  They follow Him and they follow Him carrying their cross.  They put their faith into action.  We all have a cross in life.  It can be the cross of an illness, a family problem or an unresolved past.  It can be a habit 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.  A person's "cross" is like a fingerprint. No two are the same.  People may have the same illness but the pain is experienced differently and uniquely and personally.  Carrying a cross is the way we show our loyalty to God.  The cross is a part of everyone's life.  We can either complain about the cross, regret it, ignore it, deny it or we can follow Christ by carrying it forward.

Denying our cross doesn't bring us closer to God but picking it up and carrying it through life does.  We can walk with Christ either as an admirer in the crowd or as a committed disciple.  There's a big difference.  It's one or the other.  An admirer will hear about the message of Christ, but only a disciple will know the benefit of the message.  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 an admirer of Christ to being a disciple of Christ. 

  • Do you carry a cross in life today?
  • And if so, why does God want you to carry it?
Something for all of us to think about as the conversation about commitments continues on in the world around us.

Amen.