Sunday, August 31, 2014

Take Up Your Cross and Follow Me

Preached at St Alban's in the Theatre, Arlington

Take up your cross and follow me. We are still in Matthew's Gospel. Matthew is still trying to convince the Jewish people that the man, Jesus, was the Messiah they were hoping for. And today that man says "Take you your cross and follow me." But how?

In an amazing twist of the lectionary, Paul addresses just that. I have a friend who says that this writing by Paul reminds her of a mom on the first day of school, "Did you remember your permission slip?  Your lunch money is in the account. Here's the paperwork for picture. Make good choices!" It does sort of have that same feel for us in this transitional season. Listen to another translation of this:
            Love from the center of who you are; don’t fake it.
            Run for dear life from evil; hold on for dear life to what is good.
            Be good friends who love deeply; practice playing second fiddle.
            Don’t burn out; keep yourselves fueled and aflame.
            Be alert servants of the Master, cheerfully expectant.
            Don’t quit in hard times; pray all the harder.
            Help needy Christians; be inventive in hospitality.
            Bless your enemies; no cursing under your breath.
            Laugh with your happy friends when they are happy; share tears when they are down.
            Get along with each other; don’t be stuck-up.
            Make friends with nobodies; don’t be the great somebody.
            Don’t hit back; discover beauty in everybody.
            Don’t insist in getting even; that’s not for you to do.
            “I’ll do the judging,” says God. “I’ll take care of it.”
            Our Scriptures tell us that if you see your enemy hungry, go buy that person lunch, or if he is     thirsty, get him a drink.  Your generosity will surprise him with goodness.
            Don’t let evil get the best of you; get the best of evil by doing good.

That translation is from The Message by Eugene Peterson. I have been drawn to it for other Bible study lately and it has really been speaking to me. There’s something about the language that feels more challenging to me:
            Love from the center of who you are.
            Practice playing second fiddle.
            Keep yourself fueled and aflame.
            Be inventive in your hospitality.
            Bless your enemies – no cursing under your breath.
            Go buy your enemy lunch – bring your enemy a drink.

These are nourishing words for us in this weekend of transitions. These are the words we will remember as we set up new routines and complete new tasks. This is the very best reminder we could have to get us ready for the newness and yet the familiar in this next cycle of life.  Labor Day means no more summer, right? No more 100-degree days? Fall – Autumn – is coming, right?!

This weekend always seems like a bridge in my life: the official end of summer vacation, if not the weather, and school starting up. It’s a new season every year in our house, especially with kids. Now that my youngest is in high school and the oldest in college, I am even beginning to see the end of that season as well.  There are many different life stages here, but none of us can escape the change of season – school zones affect our routines and habits – as they should – and traffic patterns change. Those of you who live here in Arlington will see less daily traffic around Six Flags, but more around Cowboy Stadium – none of us escapes the seasonal differences. This weekend there are a lot of people spending the three-day holiday out and about, but next weekend they will be back here – settled in for Fall. I like these cycles. I like the rhythms of life, even though sometimes they feel scary or melancholy, I always know another season will come along.

You all are in a cycle of transition here. Soon you will call an Interim and then a Priest-in-Charge. There will be some scary moments, some melancholy moments and< I sincerely pray, some hopeful moments. Don't quit in hard times; pray all the harder. Keep yourselves fueled and aflame. Look to Paul and Christ as you faithfully enter this season in the life of this community. 

“Take up your cross and follow me." I know you all have a Daughters of the King chapter here. Those of us who are Daughters have taken a vow that is written on the crosses we wear all the time: take up your cross and follow me. Part of taking up that cross includes time spent every day in reading Scripture, following a daily devotion, looking for ways to serve others. This is our Gospel lesson as Daughters.

May we all be blessed as we settle into this new season. May we remember these teaching from Paul and this command from Christ. May we always get the best of evil by doing good. Amen.

Audio for the sermon will be on the right sidebar Podbean Player.

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Please be graceful with me and others!