Lectionary blog for April 9
Sunday of the Passion/Palm Sunday
Matthew 21:1-11; Isaiah 50:4-9a; Psalm 31:9-16;
Philippians 2:5-11; Matthew 27:11-54
At a pastors conference a few years ago, I heard Presbyterian preacher Lloyd John Ogilvie tell about a time he was in a jewelry store buying a watch battery. While he was there, a young woman came in and asked to see some crosses. The clerk took her to a display case and proceeded to show her a selection of expensive crosses. Most of them were large, fashion accessory crosses. The young woman said, “Oh, I don’t want anything like that. I want an everyday cross.” When I heard those words, I began to wonder, “Does she, do I, do any of us, really want to carry a cross every day?”
All of us want the cross of Christ in our lives. We want the salvation that the cross of Christ promises. We want to know that our sins are forgiven, our failures are fixed or forgotten, our souls rescued from the pit of hell by Jesus’ death there on that awful instrument of torture and execution. That cross and its benefits we know we want in our lives. But what about an “everyday cross?” What about a cross that is uniquely ours, a cross that we pick up in obedience to our Lord’s invitation to take up a cross and follow Him? Is that a cross we want?
When my sons were little, I took the older one to see a children’s movie one afternoon. I don’t remember the title, but it involved a shipwreck, pirates, and other frightening things. The first time he got scared, my son grabbed my hand and said, “I want to leave, I’m scared.” “I put my arm around him and said, “It’ll be fine. Let’s stay a while.” This went on for about 30 minutes. “I’m scared.” “I’m not leaving.” Finally, I told him he could go sit in the lobby but I wasn’t leaving. I thought he would be right back, but after a couple of minutes he wasn’t and I started to go get him. I looked back at the door and there he was – standing in the lobby, but with his head stuck through the door, watching the movie. I left him there and that’s how he watched the rest of the movie. After it was over, we headed for the car. He skipped and jumped and then began to walk backwards looking up at me and said, “Boy Dad, that was good. Can we see it again?”
Hearing again the story of Jesus’ crucifixion, we are like my son. Had we been there when it happened, we would have been frightened, so frightened that it is likely that we would have run away and watched the horror from a safe distance. But now, we have already heard the story, we know how it comes out, we know about the resurrection, we know that, in the end, God wins. So, we wear crosses around our neck, and we calmly listen as the story is told to us one more time.
The problem we face is this: It is one thing to sit in a lovely, well-appointed, air-conditioned room and look back at the cross of Christ as a historic event, over and done with, and to profess our faith that Jesus died there and three days later rose again. It is quite another thing to hang on the other side of the cross, to hang where the cross is still a present event, a place where we are carrying an everyday cross of suffering while following Jesus, perhaps because we are following Jesus.
This is where the question “Do I truly want an everyday cross?” becomes a real question. There, where the two bandits are, there hanging with Jesus on the other side of the cross, there with your head in the room and your feet in the hall ready to run, there where the end of the story is still very much in doubt.
We are mistaken if we see the cross of Christ as a past event, over and done. Each of us, in one way or another, hangs upon a cross with Christ. It may be a personal cross, a cross of suffering and illness, or a cross of shame and embarrassment, or a cross of loss and confusion, or a cross of fear and frustration. It may be a cultural cross, a cross of rejection and alienation, a cross of being an outsider in an insider’s world, of being the wrong gender or color or nationality or orientation. It may be a cross of caring, a cross of being aware of the suffering and pain of others, of being concerned for those who are poor or oppressed or hungry or unjustly imprisoned.
Whatever it is, somehow, someway, each of us hangs there on our everyday cross with Jesus, and the question of faith is this: We know that God brought Jesus forth from the grave—but do we really and truly believe God can and will do the same for us? This is the essence of faith; this is truly what Martin Luther meant when he said that true Christian theology is theology of the cross. Do we indeed believe that there is hope in our hardship, salvation in our suffering, redemption in our rejection, everlasting life in our everyday cross?
Amen and amen.