On Carrying the Cross
My Dear friends in Christ, My dear confirmation class, you have reached the end of your confirmation instruction. You have studied the 10 commandments, The Creed, The Lord’s Prayer, Baptism, Communion, and the office of the Keys. We call them the six chief parts. They are represented by the banners at the front of this sanctuary. They find their beginnings in the ancient church. The church asked itself “What are the main things a person has to know and believe in order to be a Christian?” And All of them, ultimately have to do with Jesus.
The ten commandments reveals our sin, and therefore our need for the saving work of Jesus. The creed succinctly declares everything that God has done to give us life, including what Jesus sacrificed for our lives.
The Lord’s Prayer shows us the new relationship Jesus created between us and God. because of Jesus we now call him father
Baptism was where you first met Jesus before you could speak
Communion, a sacrament that brings the cross of Jesus to us personally
The Office of the Keys, tells of how Jesus promised to work through people of the church
Today, having completed a basic study of these six chief parts of Christian teaching, you will stand before this congregation and with your own voice, not with your parent’s voice, but with your own instructed voice vow your allegiance to and alliance with Christ for the rest of your days.
Does this sound kind of serious. That’s because it is. What you have learned and what you are about to publicly profess is the most important thing you will ever have. It’s not merely some part of who you are, it is who you are now and what you will vow to always be: a follower of Christ.
So what can you expect? What can you expect as a follower of Christ out there in the world. Well, the Apostle in our Reading from Timothy for today let’s us know that we cannot always expect it to be easy. He writes: “Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” (2Timothy 3:12) And Jesus himself says to his disciples in our reading from Mark “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” (Mark 8:31-35) That’s Jesus telling us that if we follow him, we will suffer. Suffer what, the slings and arrows of a world.
Be me, 19 years old. In college. Four of my “friends” all excited about stealing the 5 foot by 4 foot green road sign that said “Gustavus Adolphus College” from highway 169. “How Cool would that be, to have the college sign on the wall in the dorm?” they were thinking. (And of course no one would know that they did it).
They wanted to borrow my vice grip pliers; they wanted me to come along. I knew immediately that I didn’t want to be a part of this. Unique highway signs like that are surprisingly expensive… and to steal one would be an act of thievery and/or vandalism. So I refused. I would not participate and I would by no means contribute to their crime by lending them my vice grips. They frowned in disapproval and called me a “wuss.” That was the ultimate insult in my day. A wuss is a weak and cowardly person. Even my girlfriend looked at me with a bit of scorn. It kind of stung . It hurt to not be accepted by the group. This is an example of the kind of thing that can happen when seek to live a Godly life in this world. You will be challenged to do or think or say something you know is wrong; and people will base their appraisal of you on what you say. I you say yes, they’ll love you; if you say “No” they will heap scorn on you. There will be times when you will be social isolated for doing the right thing.
Well, they found some pliers somewhere else and tried to steal the sign and got caught… What they didn’t realize is the highway department uses special nuts and bolts that make it well nigh impossible to remove their signs ad to that that such they were doing it on a busy highway like 169 and their plot was doomed too fail. The sheriff’s spot light turned on, and they were seen standing on each other’s shoulders wrenching on the immovable bolts. The judge decided to make an example out of them and they spent the next six weekends in jail; frightened by the criminals that they did their time with; demeaned by the institutional way they were regarded, and bored out of their minds.
Meanwhile, I had myself some cracking good weekends. On one weekend, I went duck hunting with my dad. On another, I was free to enjoy the festivities surrounding homecoming. And still another I was able to go cross country skiing with some friends I grew up with. Yes, I had felt the sting of my friend’s disapproval, but the freedom that was mine made it all disappear and dissipate. I had done the right thing… and was rewarded for it.
In some ways, all of life is like this college sign thing. Friends, and people we know and the world in general plying us to take the side of sin… by what we do, what we say, what we think, and what we believe. And they will frown upon our taking a stand for the Lord, maybe call us names even. But one day, on the last day, the spot light will be turned on and those who have lived lawlessly shall go to the place that their deeds demand. But we who have come to understand how hurtful and destructive sin is, whose hearts have been convinced by God’s Spirit to seek the good, whose mouths confess our sins, whose hopes are placed in Christ Jesus who forgives our sin, will be given something more than a couple of good weekends. We can expect eternity in the bright sunshine of God’s goodness and love… We can expect Joy that never ends. And what i’ve seen is that most the time, but not all the time, that those who seek the good and seek to be godly will often end up with better family life and better lives.
To be clear, I am not saying that you are saved by choosing the good. I’m saying that you are choosing the good because you are saved through faith in Christ Jesus who died for your sins. Since you have been saved from your sin, you have begun to understand more clearly than most, the danger of it. You agree with God that something needs to be done about it. So you take proper action. You avoid it… and if you happen fall fall down you confess it and seek God’s bountiful forgiveness through his Son.
The world doesn’t get this. It does not have the capacity to understand this… so they pressure us to give it up. But rather than buckling under the pressure and giving in and surrendering what we know to be true, we need keep on this narrow way to which we have been called. Yes, you might be made to feel isolated for taking your New life in Christ seriously. but your’re not the first one. Jesus endured it way before any of us. All through his ministry he was offered ways to escape the way of the cross.
But you are not alone. Jesus knows exactly what its like he went through it himself and now he goes through it with you. He loves you to pieces And the Holy Sprit has been given so that you may be wise and see clearly. All during his ministry he was offer way to avoid doing the right thing. The devil says to him, “all this will be yours if you would just bow down to me.” Implying, “and you won’t have to go to the cross.” When he fed the 5000 which was really cool, bunch of people came up with glowing anime eyes and said “Jesus, you could make bread every day…and we wouldn’t have work! You’d have a great kingdom! (suggesting he then wouldn’t have to go to the cross.) Jesus ran away, because they were tempting him to take a different path the greatness… a path that didn’t involve the cross. And then there was Pilate. Who was frustrated by Jesus, saying “Work with me won’t you Jesus!” “Give me something so I can set you free.” But Jesus remained silent. He remained silent….he continued on the correct path, the path his father assigned, the way of the cross, because he was thinking about you and me and all people; how he would save us from death and give us life. So Jesus completely understand what it’s like to be isolated! And he’s with you. He sympathizes. Not only this, but he’s given you his holy spirit. His Holy Spirit will make you more wise and swell your faith so that you can stay on the path.
And look at all these people around here! These god has given you too. We all have this same struggle in common! That’s why we come together, to strengthen each other’s resolve. God bless you now and always and strengthen you faith more and more. AMEN