Sermon: Proper 17 RCL A – “Your Cross”

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For those who enjoy social media, Facebook would seem to be the place to be; however, like all such outlets, you can be as anonymous as you want, often allowing unrestrained digital bile, but also a place where you can be the person you want to be whether you are or not. One wrote – probably Abraham Lincoln – “Welcome to Facebook, the place where relationships are perfect, liars believe the lies they tell, and the world shows off they are living a great life: where your enemies are the ones that visit your profile the most, your friends and family block you; and even though you write what you are really thinking, someone takes it the wrong way!”

Not only that, there’s often a bit too much self-disclosure, which is causing some folks their jobs, and in one case, $150,000.

CNN reports that in November of 2011, Patrick Snay won a hard fought legal battle against Gulliver Preparatory School in South Florida on the grounds of discrimination. Snay was awarded a whopping $90,000 in the settlement. Gulliver School also had to pay the $60,000 in attorney’s fees that Snay had run up fighting them.

I had to read this a couple of times to make sure I had it right, but Snay is 69, and when he won the case, his teenage daughter broadcasted it to her 1,200 “friends” on Facebook that they had won: “Mama and Papa Snay won the case against Gulliver. Gulliver is now officially paying for my vacation to Europe this summer.” That was followed by some colorful language. And it was those few words posted on Facebook that cost Mama and Papa Snay $150,000. How? It’s called a confidentiality agreement. Mama and Papa weren’t supposed to discuss it with anyone, even teenage daughter. They won an appeal, but Gulliver School won the next, the court writing: “Snay violated the agreement by doing exactly what he had promised not to do. His daughter then did precisely what the confidentiality agreement was designed to prevent.” (source one and two)

Proverbs 29:20 states, “Do you see someone who speaks in haste? There is more hope for a fool than for them.” Or, in the words of Hermione Granger, “What an idiot.”

I suppose we’ve all done something similar, although I doubt it has cost us as much. You finally get something right. You’re on the right track. The big break. However you want to phrase it, then some idiotic mistake sets you way back. Our good friend Peter was having such a day.

Last week: Simon Peter answered Jesus, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it.

This week – in the same conversation we were reading last week: Jesus said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; for you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.”

A few moments before, Peter was focused on divine things. He had it right, but then he opened his mouth, spoke in haste, and pushed his luck. Once again he was seeing Jesus as the earthly king that he hoped Jesus would become, but Jesus says, No. Setting up empires may be the way the kingdoms of this world are established, but not so the Kingdom of God. Jesus is saying that in order for the Kingdom of God to be inaugurated, I must be obedient. I must go to Jerusalem. And I must die. And wouldn’t it be nice if it ended there? Wouldn’t it be nice if that Kingdom were established and automatically we all became citizens, but that’s not how it works either. Because, in order for us to become citizens of the Kingdom of God, we have to follow Jesus. We have to do as he did. We have to die. Jesus said, “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 will find it.”

We must take up our cross and follow him. This is something we’ve discussed before, but we’ll call it one of Fr. John’s soapboxes: the cross that you have to bear is not the accumulations of your troubles or your afflictions or a difficult person. These are not crosses. These are what are summed up in one word: life. These things make up the trials of our lives, but they are not our crosses. If they were, then Jesus could have called Peter and the gang and all their blunderings his cross to bear. However, his cross was the instrument of his death; therefore, our cross is the instrument of our death. Paul writes in his letter to the Galatians, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” The cross that we bear is for us, so that we may be crucified with Christ and rise with Christ so that we may through our transformed and resurrected bodies receive our inheritance and enter the Kingdom of God that has been prepared for us since the creation of the world. But, that is not the only cross we carry.

After the soldiers had mocked Jesus, “they took off the [purple robe they had put on him] and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him away to crucify him. As they were going out, they met a man from Cyrene, named Simon, and they forced him to carry the cross.”

I don’t know that we are ever forced to carry another person’s cross, but when we are able, we are most certainly expected to help others by providing for both their spiritual and physical needs. Again from his letter to the Galatians, Paul writes, “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” Or, D. L. Moody, commenting on Isaiah 6:8 – “I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I; send me.” – Moody said, “I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something. What I can do, I ought to do, and what I ought to do, by the grace of God I will do.”

We are to assist others in carrying their crosses, because sometimes – even in the case of Jesus – getting to that place where that old self will be crucified can be a difficult journey, so sometimes, we must put on the garments of Simon of Cyrene and put our shoulders into another’s cross while carrying our own, always remembering that there will come a day when we need a Simon in our own lives.

As for those other loads that come with being alive, those trials of the world that come in each of our lives, we are also to be there in love for one another, providing help when we can, which isn’t just about writing a check. Even Little Johnny, who’s normally in trouble, understands this one.

He was sitting in church one day and had listened to a missionary talk about the work she had been doing. He thought it was amazing and wanted to help, so when the big brass offering plate started being passed around, he reached inside his pocket for something to put in, but came up with nothing but lint. He was distressed as the plate was passed down his row, and when it came to him, he stared at it a moment, then without hesitation, he put it on the ground and stepped into it.

A friend from seminary, Dave Huxley, (click here to visit his blog) has recently had to retire from the priesthood due to early onset dementia. He has a wonderful blog where he talks about his life and struggles and the things he forgets. Well, maybe you forget things, but you apparently do not lose wisdom. Speaking of the tragedy in Texas, Dave writes, “As the great blues singer, Elmore James sang, ‘When things go wrong, wrong with you, it hurts me too.’  We’re all interconnected in this time and place, and we all share in the same disasters.  The events unfolding in Houston, and all along the Gulf Coast, will affect everyone of us.  The great delusion of our age has been that things ‘over there’ don’t matter.  When things go wrong with you, it hurts me too, and we ignore that at our peril.”

There are going to be days when we get it perfect and there are going to be days when we step in it, just like Peter and the rest of the gang managed to do on a regular basis. But each day, we are to get up, put our shoulder into it and carry our cross. The cross that leads to our salvation. Along the way, we are also to help in easing the hurts of the world, by giving aid to others in need.

Now that I think about it, this entire sermon could have been preached in only thirty words, using that Law of Christ that Paul referenced in his letter to the Galatians.: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

Let us pray:
God, our Father,
You redeemed us
and made us Your children in Christ.
Through Him You have saved us from death
and given us Your Divine life of grace.
By becoming more like Jesus on earth,
may we come to share His glory in Heaven.
Give us the peace of Your kingdom,
which this world does not give.
By Your loving care protect the good You have given us.
Open our eyes to the wonders of Your Love
that we may serve You with a willing heart.

One Reply to “Sermon: Proper 17 RCL A – “Your Cross””

  1. John, your sermon comes at a good time in my life. For the past 14 years, I’ve been an obedient servant (well most of the time), serving in assorted churches and doing what priests do. Now I’m not, and that happened very abruptly. Less than two months ago I was doing and now I am not doing. It is a transition that I was not prepared for. “Wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?”

    And then God dropped two precious grandchildren into our laps. Into week two, and we’re absorbing their energy. Or better perhaps, we’re surviving their energy. In the midst of our move, with many boxes unpacked, the Lord has given us a path to be traveled on, No doubt when this path ends, he will send us another. Another cross, another place, another reason, another way to serve him. We will be watching and waiting, my friend, thank you so much for your message.



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