Jesus called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them,” If any want to become my partisans, cause them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me….” -Mark 8: 34
Just over a week ago, on Ash Wednesday, “weve had” the sign of the cross placed on our foreheads by someone else, and we then wore that signed of reproach and fatality into a world that disavows the very existence of both chagrin and mortality–and if you don’t believe we have lost our sense of shame, you haven’t gazed slack-jawed at an bout of Keeping pace with the Kardashians or Judge Judy as people parade their bad versions of themselves on TV simply so they can say they’ve been on TV. In fact, the amount of season the Kardashians spend obsessing about realized mistakes in their forms is also wrapped up in our culture’s denial of death, as well.
Another thing we have turned into an article of faith in our society is our lack of obligations to others. This had been particularly stressed in the last few years, especially in American political discourse: the same people who used to tip their hats and say, “Much pressured, ” now would sooner chop their right arms off than acknowledge that they have an obligation to anyone but themselves. And hitherto the more they isolate themselves from their neighbors, the most vulnerable they feel. And rightly so.
The time in which Paul and Jesus lived was a time in which the vast majority of parties in the Roman Empire lived in abject, mashing privation. Scarcity and require were real and pressing concerns. And the thing about living in a dearth mindset is the fact that it heightens one’s sense of disconnection and challenger against one’s neighbor.
Being willing to appear weak in front of others has Never genuinely been considered to be a desirable place, whether in first century Palestine with its rigid ethnic and reputation railings, or in 21 st century America. We lives here in a culture awash in “rugged individualism, ” in which any need for someone else is portrayed in the public American ethos as a failing. And ironically, the same people who extol individualism fear the influence of local communities even while they condemn the loss of those “good, old-fashioned American values” that supposedly existed somewhere back in the clouds of experience, but in actuality have NEVER afforded equal interests for all people.
Remember that each of the Gospels was written for a particular community of Christians. The society for which Mark writes is undergoing persecution itself at the time that the revelations being written. Thus, in a way, these are terms of consolation for them, because it makes them know that their digest was foreordained by the words of Jesus himself. It reminds then that their suffering was shared by Jesus.
However, it doesn’t just go to suffering. The core of discipleship is self-denial. It was at this time especially that Jesus sees it quite clear that the truth is certainly counter-cultural. However, you are able to make “losing your life” more than one room. Losing your life can also be seen as shedding the age-old highway of living that was in harmony with the values of the world.
The cross in Jesus’s time was infamous, yet for us it is a sign of faith and hope–and so it is important to remember how appalling and brutal the cross was as a token but more importantly as an instrument of execution. If we remember that, it is indeed shocking that we are currently regularly perform the sign of the cross over ourselves as we are blest or absolved. The cross itself was not then a signed of hope, but a indicate of shame.
From our back of history, we know that the cross extended too to the resurrection. What if we understood that disavowing ourselves and taking up our cross is meant to remind us that we are called as Christians into obligation with one another, in the name of God? We are called to love one another, be compassionate toward each other, and take care of each other in faithfulness, in good times and bad. What if rejecting yourself and taking up your cross was understood as giving up something you have a right to, if that would spare someone else pain or suffering? What if rejecting ourselves and taking up our cross means that instead of using parties and enjoying things, as so much better of society tells us to do, we affection people and used things to help us accomplish that?
We are indeed, much obliged to God, and to each other. What if rejecting yourself actually means being true to what sees us children of God, formed in God’s image–that we are called together to live in community, cherishing our neighbors as ourselves and not trying to draw lines about “whos doing” neighbours are, and “whos doing” neighbors aren’t. What if it symbolizes putting down our solipsism and the panic and distres that generates, and instead embracing the attractivenes of society, are held by adore and the hope that applies us the endurance we need for day such as these?
What if we understood what Jesus is saying here as “Take up your cherish and hope, and follow me in indeed loving one another? ”
The Rev. Leslie Scoopmire is a writer, musician, and a priest in the Diocese of Missouri. She is rector of St. Martin’s Episcopal Church in Ellisville, MO. She affixes daily prayers, reflections, and exhortations at her blog Abiding In Hope, and accumulates spiritual writings and likeness at Poems, Psalms, and Prayers.
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