“Cross Talk”

Mark 8:31-38

25 February 2018

The Rev. Todd R. Goddard, pastor

East Rochester & West Walworth: Zion United Methodist Churches

 

Mark 8:31-38

Then he began to teach them that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. He said all this quite openly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. But turning and looking at his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.”

 

He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life? Indeed, what can they give in return for their life? Those who are ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the Son of Man will also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”

 

 

Prayer.

 

Lent opens many doorways.

 

Through open doors streams light;

Light

Of illumination

Of introspection

Of revelation

Of obligation.

 

 

Attempts at faithful living

During this season of

Living the Passion

Is as much about opening the doors God presents

As it is about

NOT closing doors that have already been opened.

 

Most, if not all, of us have opened the door of conversion.

We have felt the movement of God in our life.

We’ve been touched by Jesus.

We’ve been claimed and named.

And we’ve made sacred vows to follow him.

 

The door of conversion is only one door, however.

It is the first of many doorways that God provides

Over the course of our earthly life.

Each doorway is a gift of grace

That reveals what God wants us to see,

Inviting us to think and pray more deeply;

To reveal what we are to do and where we are to go.

 

Of course we are tempted to close doors behind us;

To forget about our conversion,

To allow our call and pilgrim’s progress to weaken,

To passively allow our witness to fade from memory,

To turn away from what God asks us to do.

 

Do not close those doors from your experience of Divine connection.

Do not extinguish the light that has filled your soul.

Do not deny the gifts of grace that have flooded into your life.

Be the faithful;

Be the follower of Jesus Christ.

 

Held in the context of Jesus’ first forewarning of his suffering, passion, death and resurrection,

(And his disciple’s disbelief),

Comes this teachable moment:

When Jesus draws his chastised disciples and the crowd close and says

 

 

“If any want to become my followers,

let them deny themselves,

and take up their cross, and follow me.” (Mark 8:34)

 

The moment of proclamation;

Stating beyond all shadow of a doubt

That Jesus Christ is Lord and Savior,

Begins the journey of obligation.

This commanding obligation of Jesus is simply outlined:

Deny yourself

Take up your Cross

And Follow me.

 

The light of obligation

Streaming through Lent’s door

 

 

Begins with self-denial.

We are to lose our life for the sake of Jesus and the Gospel.

That is,

We place Jesus first;

Ourselves second.

 

We denial ourselves so that

We promote Jesus and his Good News

To the top of our priorities;

Before my own gratification,

Before my own self promotion,

Before my own selfish behavior,

Before family, job, or fun.

Jesus comes first.

His message comes becomes the pinnacle of my experience.

 

The price we pay to be his disciple

Is self-denial.

We surrender ourselves …

… Sacrifice ourselves …

Give up ourselves for Lent

For Jesus,

Who gave himself up for us on the cross.

 

If there is no self-sacrifice

We close the door

And deny the sacrifice that was made on our behalf.

 

 

What have you done to deny yourself?

What have you turned away from

To elevate Jesus to the single highest authority and priority in your life?

Giving up chocolate or meat for Lent are the easy cards to play.

But, let’s get serious:

 

 

What has control of your thoughts?

Your obsessions?

Your desires?

Are you ready to let it go?

This is the heart of self-denial.

 

The light of obligation

Illuminates our Lord’s command

 

 

To take up your cross.

 

At the center of Christian belief

Is the observation that

Your and my sins were atoned,

Were substituted,

By the willing sacrifice

Jesus made with his crucifixion.

Just as in ancient times

Animals were sacrificed in place of individual sins,

So, too, is the concept that Jesus became the sacrifice for our sins.

 

Take up your cross

Is the invitation

To take up your sins

Lift them up to God

And allow the blood of Christ and his cross to wash them clean.

Let Jesus take them away.

The burden of the cross is sin and forgiveness.

 

What sins have you intentionally committed?

What sins have you unintentionally committed?

What sins have been committed against you?

 

This Lent

Each of us are invited take a good hard look at ourselves.

It isn’t acceptable to allow sin to become

Perpetual unfinished business;

Never ending cycle of brokenness.

End the sin.

 

Forgive the sinner;

Even as we must beg for forgiveness

Forgive,

Just as you’ve been forgiven.

 

 

Forgive often.

Forgive freely.

Forgive lavishly.

Forgive repeatedly.

Forgive without expectation of being forgiven.

 

When that sinner is you,

Stop the sin.

Repent of the sin.

Vow not to sin again.

Repair the damage that your sin has caused.

And humbly ask to be forgiven.

 

You may, or you may not be forgiven, by the one who you offended.

But you will always be forgiven by Jesus Christ.

Approach Jesus with a completely humble and contrite heart.

 

 

Forgiveness isn’t natural;

Forgiveness is supernatural.

Forgiveness is simply Divine.

 

Light shines

 

 

Through the doorway

With the Jesus invitation:

“Follow me.”

Our Lenten obligation of his call

Is behavior change.

Following Jesus means we have to do something.

We have to do things differently.

 

 

Jesus’ command is simply stated:

Learn his ways,

Follow his example,

Do what he asks us to do.

 

Jesus may be our celestial stalker,

Our determined Divine bloodhound,

But unless each of us get off the stick

And learn his ways

By reading, listening, and reflecting on his Word

Sunday’s worship will become Monday’s faded memory.

Efforts to follow Jesus without first learning his ways

Will end in religious frustration and resentment.

 

Get in the Word!

Lent invites us to live in the Word!

Jesus wants us to become his living Word proclaimed to the world!

 

Learning what Jesus did

Is followed by the question

“How do I apply the example of Jesus to my life today?”

“How do I see the world as if looking through the eyes of Jesus?”

“How do I respond to the needs of a broken world the same way as Jesus?”

 

Like looking at a hurricane’s residual flotsam and jetsam

We begin the cleanup with that outstretched, helping hand;

With that first turn of the shovel or hammer of a nail.

We follow Jesus

When we take the first step to reach out to the same people Jesus did:

The last, the least, the lost, the left behind.

 

 

Reach out.

Touch people with a smile.

Pay forward the love of Jesus Christ.

Invite people to become friends and join in the journey.

Draw friends to wholeness, wellness, completeness with God.

 

Three simple steps.

Three simple doorways

Lead us this day

To consider the blessings of Lent’s obligation;

The Light of God’s gracious journey

That takes us to the Cross, through the grave, and to the empty tomb.

 

Follow me, Jesus asks.

There is no “EASY” button.

The work of discipleship takes sustained, honest, authentic effort.

 

Being a disciple of Jesus

Requires self-sacrifice and self-denial.

Responding to the call of Jesus

Responding to the call means

We have to do something.

 

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Become someone new,

And leave the old you

Behind.

 

Walk with me

Beloved East Rochester sisters and brothers:

Deny yourself.

Take up your cross.

Follow Jesus.

Amen.