Tuesday, February 17, 2015

we are the people of the cross

My 5 year old loves to complain.  If we're going somewhere other than exactly where he wants to go he crumbles at the knees and tells me
it's SO far
he's SO tired
his legs hurt SO bad
and I just have to laugh and roll my eyes and sarcastically say - I know, it's such a long hard road isn't it buddy?

Jesus walked a long hard road to Calvary.

Beaten and bloody he took his last steps carrying the weight of the world's sin on his shoulders and two heavy pieces of wood fashioned into a cross on his back.  Along the way someone stepped in to share the physical burden of that weight with him.

We don't know if Simon was willing to help or reluctant.  We only know that he was chosen from the crowd and the next thing he knew he was walking alongside the Savior of the world when the greatest act of love was poured out for the nations.  He had a front row seat for that powerful piece of history.  I would be willing to bet his life was never the same again.

Simon of Cyrene.
If you check the maps and history books you'll find that the ancient city of Cyrene would have been near Tripoli in northern Libya.  And a shiver goes up my spine.
The image of those 21 martyrs on a beach in Libya was displayed on our t.v. two nights ago and I scrambled for the remote.  The kids were in the room and I wasn't sure what was going to follow but it didn't feel good. It felt evil.
I turned it off and turned away.
I turned back to cleaning up the dinner dishes and tucking little bodies safely into bed.  The whole time that scene of the men in the orange jumpsuits was in the back of my mind.

I kept pushing it back and away but when I crawled in my own cozy spot that night the books on either side of our bed caught my eye.  On the one side was my latest purchase - The Allure of Gentleness: Defending the Faith in the Manner of Jesus.  On Joey's side was his current study material - Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream.

It's what we are seeking.
A gentle, and yet radical faith.
But are we really?

I opened Joey's study guide and there it was on the first page:
The person who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; the person who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me.  And whoever does not take up his cross and follow Me is not worthy of Me.

We read these books but what if we read our own hearts.  What would we really find there?  Is anything really sinking in?  Is there really any change taking place?  Are we really adopting the gentle, yet radical faith of Jesus or are we just pressing the power button to turn off the parts of the world we can't face.  The ones we don't want to admit exist.  How long will we live our comfortable lives holding our faith in our hands like these books we read instead of carving it into our hearts.

When will we stop just carrying books that challenge us and start carrying crosses that change us?

Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday.  It marks the beginning of a season in the Christian church called Lent.
I wrote a pretty little post about that.
This isn't it.

Many of us will go to church tomorrow and have the black ashes pressed into our foreheads and be reminded -
     You are dust and to dust you shall return.
With that statement we remember.

We remember how soon after creation the fall of mankind occurred.  We remember the choice Adam and Eve made to disobey God and separate themselves from him.  We remember how they grabbed onto something they believed to be more important than their relationship with him.
That fall led to the brokenness of this world.  And so began the cycle of sin - none of us immune to it but all of us offered redemption from it.

It is what I know of myself and what I know of God.

I am a broken person in a broken world and only the grace of God can fill in those cracks and bring me a wholeness that brings me back to him.  And yet I keep grabbing onto other things like they are more important instead of grabbing onto Christ with both hands.  I waste time scrolling through my phone, wandering store aisles, researching DIY ideas, staring at screens, worrying about things I can't change, and hurrying from one useless activity to the next.

Willing or reluctant Simon carried the cross.
Willing or reluctant I will too.
I will carry the proof that wholeness in a broken world is possible only through the saving grace of Jesus.
I will carry the truth of who he is and what he has done and what is eternally different as a result.
I will take steps that may seem radical with all the gentleness I can muster.

Yes, it was a long hard road to Calvary.  Simon knows better than anyone.  He was there.
Will we be able to say the same thing?
We were there,
walking with Jesus,
carrying the evidence on our backs no matter how heavy it got.

Commentaries state that Cyrene {modern day Libya} was 'a great center from which the gospel went forth.'  Maybe it still is.

I don't know if they went willingly or reluctantly but I will tell you this.
Last night I opened up my computer and I made myself look into the eyes of the 21 cross bearers.  I saw no fear.  Willingly or reluctantly - they went.  They carried the cross right in front of those who would mock it and despise it.  They didn't crumble under the weight of that or run away or try to pass it off onto someone else or complain that it was too hard or they were too weak.  They carried the cross of Christ right in the middle of a bloody beaten world that desperately needs redemption.  Darkness loomed behind them but the light of Christ was in front of them.  I saw it reflected in their eyes.

Do you know what I love about traditions like Ash Wednesday?
They are not necessary.
They are not required for our salvation.
They don't make us 'better Christians'.

They unite us.
They remind us.
They connect the greater body of Christ together as one.
Because the cross is nothing if it is not a great connector - to God and to one another.
Together we are stronger.
Together we are braver.
Together we hold hands, take a deep breath and go out into ALL the world to claim lives and lands for Christ because he claimed us.  We carry the cross together.
We carry the evidence of a love that has the power to change the world.

Instead of publishing the pretty little post I prepared about Lent, I am just going to offer you this and then get on my knees and plead with God to give me His strength to carry His cross - whenever and wherever I am asked.

Those men.
The light in their eyes.
What I saw in them lit a flame inside of me - maybe you too.  Now it's up to us to fan those flames and spread them like wildfire into every corner of this glorious globe until it is lit up with the blindingly bright glory of God.
We are being called from the crowd to carry the cross - the cross that represents the grace and truth of the only One who can save us.

We have a part to play in this piece of history.

Willing or reluctant we are people of the cross and it's time for us to make our move.  It's time for us recommit to making the greatest commandment our greatest commitment.  The need may not seem so urgent from the comfort of our couches but one look around the world and we know there is no time to waste.
You are chosen.
Time to step out of the crowd and under the Cross.

If we don't carry the evidence of eternity, who will?
That's the question I will be asking myself when the ashes are pressed into me and I carry that cross on my head through the doors of the church and back into the world.