Sunday, August 31, 2008

Pentecost 16

Today's readings: Jeremiah 15:15-21; Romans 12:9-21; and Matthew 16:21-28 (sermon concentrated on verse 24).
What's the usual reward for a right answer? Recognition? Glory? We know the answer to last week's question, "Who do you say that I am?" But look at today's text: the reward, apparently, is to bear our cross! The answer is not the end but the beginning. But we don't take up His cross - thank God! His cross is rooted, already having been carried, already having borne the infinite weight of all the world's sins. Let your sins stay there, and not take them up again.

This week, those in school have borne crosses of a sort - syllabi, new classes, etc. Instead of standardized syllabi, however, God tailors our crosses to what we need and includes some of what we love. "But that's not fair!" True, it's not identical. But what if "fair" meant "the same principle of individual appropriateness"? Christ says to each of us, "Take up your cross and follow Me."

This is difficult to accept. Lose your life to follow Christ - sacrifice your demand for the perfect, standardized set of talents, relatives, challenges, etc. Your cross, shaped like yourself, takes trust. Accept God's individualized plan for you, not desiring someone else's plan. Take what He's given you. After all, He is personal, near to you, knowing you, loving you, caring for you. He will provide a way under each test and temptation; He knows what you can bear. Having faced the Question, accept His answer.
The pastor this morning teaches, among other things, a class on the New Testament. If only he did have individualized syllabi...

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