The Rev. Jennifer L. Adams – September 18 -Proper 18, Year C: Luke 14:25-33
This morning I want to try something out on you. We’ll call this a “floater” sermon where I have an idea that I’m working out right here in front of all of you. Now it’s a theological idea, appropriate for the context, and it could eventually become a teaching or a belief, but for now, I’m sorta testing it out, and I need a safe place to do that. Could be that by the end of this sermon after I hear it, I have to say, “never mind” and take it back to the drawing board. But, I value your input and I’d like you to be a part of this process. So are you game? Looks like enough nodding heads (the Episcopal version of YES! WE’RE IN!) Here we go.
I think you are my cross to bear. That’s it. That’s my floater idea. I think that you, all of you her today and more, are my cross to bear. Now before you worry too much about that, or perhaps even feel slightly offended, let me explain.
First let me clarify that I don’t mean this in the purely traditional sense where “cross to bear” is a put down of sorts, meaning extreme burden or trial that one has to put up with, the kind of description one would offer with a big, defeated sort of sigh. That’s not where I’m headed here. It’s not who you are for me. Just so you know. OK- we good?
Which isn’t to say that a cross is easy or light or without pain. It’s to say that perhaps a cross is a relational sort of thing. It was for Jesus, right? The theological language of “he died for us,” implies that much. While I am careful with the theologies of the cross that are out there, I will absolutely agree that the cross was a relational act on Jesus’ part. It was and is an offering of self through which comes struggle and pain and eventually death or a death of sorts. However, it’s also a means of salvation.
And so maybe you are my cross to bear- meaning you are that through which I experience pain and struggle, you are those who demand various levels of sacrifice but you are also those who bring out more love than I could bring out myself, and I would go so far as to call it salvific at times. Through you I glimpse something of God and I am more aware of my presence with God, and God’s presence with me. All of that because of you.
And crosses work like that. They aren’t easy, but they open us to new life.
So, what if our cross to bear is the love we share?
Let’s unpack it a little more. You lay things down when you walk through these doors, we all do. Hopefully you find a place to rest here, if that’s what you need. You have a place and a people among whom you can lay down your burdens, even some of your defenses, and offer your praise, your lament, your joys and your thanksgivings. This is a place in which we are invited to experience prayer and to come to know deep peace.
But we also pick something up when we walk through these doors, especially if you keep walking through these doors, which I hope that all of you – week after week, year after year and I’ve heard many of you talk about this as one of the reasons why you call Grace “home.”
You pick something up, because when you look around the sanctuary you see very real people, and as you begin to connect, you share some of yourself with at least some of them. You also begin to know the pains, the needs, the struggles of others. And so you pray for them and maybe you even care for them, you bring them food or just take time to listen and wrestle with their ways of approaching life or approaching faith. Being here among – is a relational act – there is God and there is all of us.
One of you out words on this recently. In what I considered a beautiful, even holy conversation you shared that you had stayed awake one night shedding genuinely compassionate tears for the struggle you knew another person here was going through. You separated (as the gospel says) from your own life, sacrificing if nothing else some sleep, but also some energy, some room in your brain and heart.
And in your tears there was struggle, there was burden, but there were also seeds of what I believe to be our greatest hope. Because in those moments there is a discovery, a discovery and an acknowledgement that we are bound to each other with a love that passes our understanding. And crosses work like that.
And so what if we are cross for one another? What if take up your cross and love your neighbor are actually the same act of faith?
The good news is that we can practice it all here, not just for the sake of here but for the sake of every day of our lives. We practice here when we walk through the doors into a community of faith. We do it at the tables – when we feed one another and when we feed our neighbors who happen to also be strangers. We pick up our cross on pilgrimage when we discover how closely we are bound in love, and even when we open our hearts and our lives to those who are “in the news.”
Take up your cross, Jesus said, for the sake of nothing more and nothing less then the love we have to give, and the love we have to receive from one another and from God.
It’s an idea anyway. . .Thanks for letting me try it out.