Well I missed another deadline and wrote something too late for the calendar date again. If I were a beat reporter, surely I would be a few beats too late. It is the one section of the Hallmark store I know intimately well–the belated section.
Except in this case I think it will be OK anyway because I am writing about Easter and it is NEVER too late for the Good News of Easter! Easter offers the best “never too late” offer ever available anywhere at any time for mankind. For Christians particularly it is the best time to reflect and recommit to the core of one’s faith.
More specifically, I found myself considering this pivotal sequence in scripture found in Mathew 24 :”Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.”
In my younger days I took that to mean something much more imposing and foreboding. And it made me feel like gulping in despair. ‘Give up my pleasant middle class lifestyle?” “Eschew my lazy habits?” “Preach the gospel boldly to people that don’t share my position?”
On and on the hypothetical questions spiraled. When it came to my life and being at the “cross roads,” I clearly lacked the moral fortitude and was found wanting. Instead of feeling conviction I felt “CONVICTED.” In other words—“game over.”
I was just too weak and phony to reconstruct my outer habits to some rarified lifestyle of spiritual devotion. Surely I was excluded and not important enough.
But as I look back now, at this vantage point in my life, I see these words from Jesus as far less about dramatic tests and much more of an exhortation to hang in there and recover the faith amid the tedium and temptations of every little moment of each day. As the philosopher Kierkegaard describes in his theories on dualities; you can’t have faith without doubt and you can’t really know joy without the trials of sadness and mistakes. The Cross symbolizes a forever union once a heart connection is made and this means surrendering ourselves to the gift of love offered up by the Lord.
We can serve right where we are in all the simple day to day interactions we weave through. We are front line soldiers and we matter. It is important to remember this when Satan glides in and tells us that we are failures and not worthy of God’s love.
Related to this notion of the Cross at Easter, I read an article written by Richard Grebenc, entitled “Carrying the Cross with Simon of Cyrene” speaks eloquently of this: “We tend to associate this notion with physical ailments or challenges, difficulties in prayer, mental illness, emotional distress, or any of a number of unwelcome events that inevitably occur in life.”
Along the way, this means that we will share in the suffering with Christ and are “bought with a price” as scripture reminds us. Carrying the cross becomes more than a metaphor for shouldering a burden and points also to the abundantly good news of eternal life and a forever relationship with God.
The unavoidable, irrefutable truth is that we never can reach a point of becoming so mature or wise in our lifetime where we don’t need to rely on our faith to sustain us after the mirages and illusions of our physical body peals away.
And then, lastly, this led me to consider the sequence in the Bible where Christ was assisted in carrying the cross to Calvary. From the accounts in the scripture, Simon of Cyrene is conscripted by the Roman guards to assist Jesus during his passion as it was feared that He would be too weak to make it to his final destination. So Simon is merely a passerby and was randomly picked out of the crowd at that one point in time in history.
As such, it is easy to imagine the surprise, embarrassment, and even irritation Simon must have felt at being singled out to leave the crowd and take part in helping in someone else’s misfortune, as he was merely a random witness to an outside event that seemingly had nothing to do with him. We readily can imagine ourselves as motorists driving by that only want to passively observe a crime or accident scene without disrupting our routine and being put out.
But the Cross of Jesus Christ doesn’t work so conveniently. It convicts and forces us to make a decision. We cannot claim to be too busy or uninvolved. This is the singular most critical event in the arc of human history—and its ramifications are meant for each of us—and forces us to make a decision to get involved or not.
All of us, know full well in our own cautious, timorous lives, those same emotions naturally occurring when we have been asked to stand up to volunteer on stage or feel compelled to act as a bystander when some kind of accident or incident occur in our public lives.
What we often forget is that carrying the cross goes on regardless of outward acts and consecutive streaks of abstinence and fasting. Once we become believers, we need to reapply our faith every day in the face of lean times when our reception to heaven seems pretty remote and ineffectual. We ARE carrying the cross every day of our lives—and God loves extends beyond all the many slip ups and less than stellar, Apostle Peter and Thomas moments that shame us.
We shoulder the cross of Christ in happy times and sad. Thank God we can’t squander it away during our most oblivious times either.
We are IN this race for the long haul and we need to look for help from the most unlikely places, from every Good Samaritan we can find. Once the distractions and career moves are over, we will be mighty glad that we kept on carrying the cross for Christ-because that reality will bolster and strengthen us in our older age when we need it most.