From six years ago. Still a pretty good summary of what I think Christianity ought to be.
When I first started doing these, I asked Don what I should say, what I should talk about. He said, “Say whatever you want, but remember to mention the cross.” I don’t know if I’ve remembered to do that every time or not. So today I want to talk about the cross a bit.
Since its inception, the cross has been an easily identified symbol. Before the cross became a fashion statement for pop stars, even before it was associated with the church, the cross was a familiar symbol, a symbol that was met with shudders and averted eyes.
Simply put, the cross was used by Rome to keep people in line. If you challenged the power that was Rome, you found yourself hung on a tree or post outside of town. You’ve seen the movies and read the books so you know how that went. One of the reasons for hanging you up was so that you would act as a billboard for those traveling through the land. The clear message: Caesar is king. Don’t forget it. Don’t rock the boat.
Who would? Who wants to end up like that. I mean, I hate the mess that the world is in. We’ve badly botched things up. In this country we spend 4.2-billion dollars a year on christian books, 40-billion-dollars annually on our pets (I have 2 cats), 16 hours a week in front of the t.v., and 32 hours a week on the internet. Meanwhile a billion people in this world earn less than a dollar a day; a child dies of starvation every 5 seconds; and right down the street I walk the halls every day with kids who are desperately trying to find peace and purpose in this generally vacuous world.
But take up my cross? Challenge the status quo? End up like Jesus? I mean things aren’t so bad, are they? Where’s my remote? Seriously. There’s no way.
In writing this I looked at what Jesus had to say to his disciples before they shared the passover meal, the one we’re about to share.
In John’s gospel Jesus has a lot to say while in the upper room. At one point he prays this: “I will remain in the world no longer, but they are in the world. Protect them. Protect them so that they may be one. As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world.”
Put down the remote. We’ve been sent into the world by Jesus, to do the work of Jesus. We have good news to proclaim: “Caesar is not king. Jesus is. His kingdom has come.” We have hungry to feed, poor to care for, prisoners to visit, temples to get thrown out of. And if it means taking up our cross, then let’s do it together.