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We’ve missed some time together already in this Lent. Last week.
Episcopal Relief and Development.
Daily meditations. Covenant.
Last week’s OT lesson – Genesis & the Rainbow.
God hates nothing that God has made.
Covenant is a two-way street. It’s not just a burden that God carries – but it is also a burden that is laud upon us - A cross that is laid upon us – With the expectation that we will be Christ to the world. Christ to the community that surrounds us. Not just because we’re welcoming – or caring – But by actually being crucified with Jesus for the sake of those around us. It means that we have to be willing to give so much more of ourselves – But because we’re willing to sacrifice like Jesus for our neighbors.
On Wednesday night a few of us gathered for the first part of a Lenten seriesAnd we talked about this text. And some of us talked about moments in our lives when perhaps it felt like God was asking too much of us – When the burden that seemed like God was giving us – seemed like too much.
Do you know the saying that God only gives us what we can handle? I can't stand that saying. God doesn’t give us bad things to “handle” A God of love – who insists that we love God and each other – Doesn’t give us things that are bad – or hurtful – just because we can handle them. I really dislike it for another reason, too. It makes it sounds like God gives burdens to everyone – in a world where we know that there are many people who can’t handle it.
Because what they’ve actually been given – Or because what has been taken away – Is too much – Because it’s not something that any one person can handle – I’m thinking about big things. Like ebola epidemics. Like AIDS. Like whole generations crippled by hunger – By systemic racism – And poverty.
But think about the more individual ones – too. The child born in Meriden – to parents who aren’t able to care him. He needs more food – more attention – more love – access to better education. No child can handle that. He can’t raise himself – and God didn’t give him that.
These burdens – they’re not burdens that any one person can handle. And they’re not burdens that I think we – as a world – as the Body of Christ – can handle – at least not in the sense of – live with. We cannot continue to live like this.
And this little saying – it lets us off the hook. It makes us kind of lazy.If we believe that God doles out these burdens – then why do we really have to deal with it? Why do we have to struggle against it? Especially if it happens a world away – and doesn’t seem to really have anything to do with us… This is though – exactly the mentality – that Peter gets rebuked for in the Gospel. The idea that we can simply be concerned with ourselves. The idea that our actions only really affect us. And that simply isn’t true.
God expects that we will take up the cross and follow after Jesus - And that we will carry a burden then – for someone else. Just like Jesus carried the burden for each one of us – A burden that we surely could not carry.
We hear the story of Abraham today – Abraham who waits so faithfully for God to make good on promises made. Abraham who changes his whole life – And believes – just because God tells him to. Time and time again these characters we meet in scripture – they are deeply flawed. And yet – God is faithful to them – and righteousness is reckoned to them – Not because they’ve done something particularly special – Or earned their salvation in some way – But instead because they believed. Because they sought after God. And later – because they followed the example of Jesus – Taking up the cross – Thinking of others before themselves – And making sacrifices for the sake of God and their neighbor.
Continue your journey through Lent this week – By thinking about – and praying about – The crosses in your life. Where is it in your journey with God that you are being asked to take up a cross? When was it that you last made a sacrifice for Christ in this way? By giving up something of yourself – By stepping out of your comfort zone – By committing to do something for the sake of God that actually required something difficult of you? That made you uncomfortable? When was it that you last sacrificed something for Jesus – or for your neighbor? Not just giving what you can spare – but actually sacrificing for someone else.
Taking up your cross has implications for your life – It will determine how you relate to organizations like ERD. It will also determine how you relate to – and care for your neighbor. How we – as a parish – do the work we’re called to do.
Taking up your cross – is fundamentally about carrying the burdens of other people. Not as a favor – not as charity – But as family – As members of the Body of Christ – Because Jesus didn’t carry the cross for us – As a favor – Or as charity –
Instead that path led Jesus down the road to Calvary –Up the hill to Golgotha – Where he was crucified to save us. To free us. So that we could do something with that freedom. So that we could help someone else – love someone else – And participate in the work that God is doing to save the whole world.
Begin this Lent – begin this day – with being unhappy with what is around you. Be dissatisfied with the way the world is set up. Be so unhappy – so unable to handle this burden – Of this world – Of the injustice – and sickness – and poverty – and oppression – That you actually want to DO something about it. Because I don’t think God has given the world what we CAN handle.
I think we have created a world that we shouldn’t be able to handle. A world that we can’t handle – A world that if we see it with our eyes – If we force ourselves to look at it – We can’t help but want to take up our cross – To carry the burden – and free our neighbors. Because Christ first freed us.