Sunday, March 06, 2005

Bearing the cross

Matthew 27:32    As they were going out, they met a man from Cyrene, named Simon, and they forced him to carry the cross.

Luke 9:23-24 Then he said to them all: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it.

Luke 14:25-27 Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters–yes, even his own life–he cannot be my disciple. And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.

I can't remember the last time I heard a sermon about bearing a cross for Jesus. I also can't remember when I taught such a lesson. Is it such an old-fashioned, non-seeker-sensitive notion that it's been lost? I know it's a hard message, but my sin nature is hard to put to death, and without it being crucified daily, I am afraid that I haven't got a shot of becoming more like Jesus.

I heard a message today about following Jesus that really spoke to my heart and encouraged me to exchange my own life for Jesus', but in the middle of it I began wondering about how shallow I really am. I've been thinking hard about discipleship in terms of ministry programs, but really discipleship is about dying to oneself. How do you teach that? First you have to do it--I have so far to go in that area! Then you need not be afraid of hard messages and pass them along. And finally, there must be something about grace in there...the fact that any cross we bear actually brings us closer to Jesus, that any suffering ultimately results in good in God's economy.

I am in a place these last few days, perhaps because it's Lent, perhaps because it's been a long winter, where I feel I need to live in the shadow of the cross in a fresh way. I love, love, love the old hymn with its mournful, minor chords, "Be Still My Soul."

Be still, my soul: the Lord is on thy side.
Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain.
Leave to your God to order and provide;
In every change, He faithful will remain.

Be still, my soul: your best, your heavenly Friend
Through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.
Be still, my soul: your God will undertake
To guide the future, as He has the past.

Your hope, your confidence let nothing shake;
All now mysterious shall be bright at last.
Be still, my soul: the waves and winds shall know
His voice Who ruled them while He dwelt below.

(Katharina von Schlege, Be Still, My Soul)

May Jesus teach us all to be full disciples who count the cost of following him and do not turn back at the first sign of sacrifice. May we view suffering as the opportunity to grow more like him. May we seek to sacrifice our own selfish desires daily (those that fiercely rise up each morning and rattle our cages all day) so that God may fill us with his own desires and purpose.

Micah Girl


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