[W]hoever does not take up the cross and follow me is not worthy of me. [(Matthew 10:38)
You and I have to pick up our cross and follow Jesus. Right here in 21st century San Francisco., Right here at the intersection of Turk and Lyon. We’re supposed to pick up the cross and follow Jesus.
But how do we do that? “The Crucifixion” happened a long time ago – right? Jesus died on a cross, descended to the dead, and rose on the third day. The Roman Empire is long gone and – at least as of today – even the most radical of conservatives haven’t been able to reinstate crucifixion as a means of executing prisoners who are condemned to death. What’s going on here? Let my share a story from our last Vicar’s retreat.
Once a year, the diocese brings all of its Vicars together for a few days of study and discussion. This year as part of our work we did a little exercise. Three large almost blank sheets of paper were posted around the room. One was titled ‘Neighborhood,’ the second titled ‘Church,’ and the third ‘Self.’ We were given a bunch of different colored post-its and told to write how we saw people hurting ion each of these three places: our church ‘Neighborhood;’ our ‘Church,’ and our ‘Self.’ Then we were given cute little Jesus Band Aides – yes there are such things at Amazon – and asked to place one of these Band Aides on each sheet of paper. We had to sign our name to each Band Aide.
And that got me to thinking. The places where we see pain in our lives – those are the places where the Crucifixion continues, right now, right here, in our lives. The Crucifixion continues. It may even be gaining speed.
This week, a scheme for replacing Obamacare was unveiled in the United States Senate. It is nothing less than a huge transfer of wealth from those who can afford it least to those who already have the most. If you make more than $250,000 a year, the replacement plan will give you a few thousand dollars. If you are as rich as Warren Buffett, this plan will save you hundreds of thousands of dollars – dollars which come from the pockets of the rest of us. It is an unprecedented shift of wealth from middle class and working class Americans and into the hands of the rich and very rich. It will destroy Medicare and Medicaid, affecting every Senior Citizen who is not independently wealthy. All in the name of denying America’s first African American President a landmark accomplishment, a legacy achievement. This proposal is unconscionable and downright un-Christian. And now you see one place where we can say: the Crucifixion continues.
Again and again, young men of color have been shot dead by law enforcement officers. Once again this month, the officer involved in one of these killings was not convicted – spared because he “felt” threatened. The Crucifixion continues.
When an immigrant neighborhood is threatened by the ICE Police’s thug like attempts at intimidation, the Crucifixion continues.
When a young man or woman dies on the street from gang-related violence, the Crucifixion continues.
When an out of work, middle-aged American stops looking for work because they just can’t find a job, the Crucifixion continues.
When a Muslim or Jew is attacked or made to fell unwelcome, the Crucifixion continues.
When someone decides to self-medicate with Oxycontin, heroin, or their drug of choice, the Crucifixion continues.
When one of our neighbors loses their apartment to make way for more affluent tenants, the Crucifixion continues.
When public schools lose money that goes to for-profit ‘Charter’ schools, the Crucifixion continues.
When any American goes to bed hungry, the Crucifixion continues.
When people are isolated and alone, cut off from each other, the Crucifixion continues.
All around us, the Crucifixion continues. And it keeps getting worse and worse. And the speed of America’s decline seems to be increasing. What are we called to do?
Our first step is to notice the Crucifixions occurring around us. Where in your life and in mine do we see people in pain? We have pay attention and see who is hurting.
Second, Jesus tells us to take up the cross. But it is not like we get to choose the cross we will carry.
The cross we have in mind is almost never the cross we actually bear. If we choose a cross for ourselves, we might well pick the wrong one. We tend to choose crosses that are all about us: about what we like, what we can do, what we do best. We would choose crosses we can handle, crosses we find comfortable, crosses that look good on us.
Oh, it wouldn’t happen here, you and I, we’d never act this way. But can’t you just see some other people in some other church and in some other town, picking out their cross?
“I’ll take the gold one so everyone can see me and follow my lead.”
“I’ll take the silver cross embossed with Hebrew in Greek so everyone will know I’ve been to seminary and can read Hebrew. Or was it Greek?”
“I’ll take the biblically correct wooden one, so everyone will know I take the Bible literally.”
“I’ll take the plastic one, with the flat panel screens built in, so everyone will know I am technologically advanced.” We could go on and on.
Truth is, we seldom get to choose the crosses we bear; they almost always choose us. Our choice is whether we will listen to and be guided by the Holy Spirit.
Opening ourselves up to the guidance of the Holy Spirit sounds a lot easier than it really is. Yet there are times when I’ve seen it work and work well. It all depends.
During the rest of this summer, we will talk about how we as St. Cyprian’s will respond to the challenges which surround us. If we allow the Spirit to guide us we can find our cross. Equally important, we have to do that in a way that doesn’t drive people as being proselytizing or self-indulgent or outlandish,
Our goal is to find out what Jesus is calling us to do, to become, here at the corner of Turk and Lyon as we move through the next few years. To be effective, we need to discern our path with the involvement of all who care about St. Cyprian’s. And we need to listen carefully to what the spirit says in our hearts and through the lips of those around us.
During this fall we will gather to discuss our direction with a goal of having a vision in mind for the start of the next year. We are right where God wants each and every one of us to be. No we need only listen and follow as we plan the next stage in our life together as the people of St. Cyprian’s.
Let us pray
your love stands firm from generation to generation,
your mercy is always abundant.
Give us open and understanding hearts,
that having heard your word,
we may seek Christ’s presence in all whom we meet. Amen.
May God;’s people say: Amen.