Theme - The Cross
Scripture - Luke 9:23-24 - “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. 24 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it.
Quote - NT Wright - "The message of Easter is that God's new world has been unveiled in Jesus Christ and that you're now invited to belong to it.”
Today we return to the source, the root of this weeks story. Why did Jesus take Peter, James and John up the mountain and give them the gift of witnessing Transfiguration? Because he had just announced that the culmination of his ministry and mission would be a cross and death. Jesus announces this and then challenges the disciples with this radical and shocking redefinition of what it means to be his disciples. They too, must deny themselves and take up their cross...daily.
How often have we heard someone describe a challenge they face, a tragedy they are living through, a pain they experience as 'the cross they have to bear?' How many times have we said it ourselves. But that isn't quite accurate. Notice that Jesus says the disciples must 'take up' their cross. So he isn't describing the challenges that happenstance brings into our lives. He is describing an active choice to let go of safety and security to accept a burden. John Howard Yoder explains it this way; ' “The believer's cross is no longer any and every kind of suffering, sickness, or tension, the bearing of which is demanded. The believer's cross must be, like his Lord's, the price of his social nonconformity. It is not, like sickness or catastrophe, an inexplicable, unpredictable suffering; it is the end of the path freely chosen after counting the cost.'
This is not to say that Christ is not present with us when the inexplicable and unpredictable happens. Today's story shows that explicitly. We know that Jesus is the incarnation of God, God with us, because Jesus hears the cries of suffering of those caught up in the pain of the inexplicable and traumatic. Christ is the very promise of God to be with those who suffer and struggle with forces beyond their own control, whether that be disease or broken relationships or political oppression. But when Jesus says to the disciples that they are to take up their cross he is telling them that they are called by God not only to face their own personal struggles, but to take on the suffering and struggles of others as their own. And he is saying that when forgiving and being reconciled with the enemy, when being hospitable to the other, generous to the poor, friend of the outcast, goes against popular opinion and causes suffering and doubt, fear and pain, THAT is their cross.
That is an incredible challenge, a high calling. That is why the gift of transfiguration is given. Because we are being challenged to a high purpose which is to take on the suffering of others as our own, to respond with hope, hospitality and wholeness and to maintain solidarity to the outsider, even when we will not be supported, thanked or appreciated. The transfiguration is a glimpse of Christ's resurrection. Jesus died because he would not abandon or forsake the vulnerable, the oppressed, the outsider. The transfiguration shows that loss and trauma and pain is not the end of the story of our mission when we take up our cross. The glory of God's reign and its new creation, is our story and our reward.
Prayer - As we approach the season of Lent, we celebrate the gift of your resurrection, crucified and risen Lord. For it reminds us the cost of discipleship, the risky demand of carrying a cross, and blessed reward of solidarity with you, which is hope and life. Remind us that your death on the cross was not the action of an angry God, but the gift of a loving God and fill us with that kind of love that risks much in or order to serve the least.