Sermon – 09-12-21 – Proper 19 – Cycle B
Scripture: Isaiah 50:4-9a, Psalm 116:1-9, James 3:1-12, Mark 8:27-38
Sermon Title: “The Cross On Our Backs”
What are you carrying on your backs? Does it feel like a heavy cross and you can’t get it off your back? What am I carrying on my back?
Vera’s cross on her back is her responsibilities. She has promised to do more than she can handle. She is exhausted and is not doing a good job with any of the responsibilities. She yearns for free time. She needs free time with no pressure. She needs to find a way to leave go of the responsibilities that are the most taxing because they don’t match her God-given talents.
Michelle’s cross is not so easily handled. Her cross is overloaded with responsibilities that cannot be let go. She is caring for her mother with dementia and she is the care-giver for two grandchildren during the day. She cannot afford to pay for help like mowing the grass or weeding the garden and harvesting the produce from the garden. At night, she falls into bed exhausted, only to hear her mother calling for help. What should she do?
Marvin’s cross is interesting. He has a step-son whose mother, Marvin’s wife, is very ill and cannot cope with life in any way. The step-son’s name is David. David has a cross of his own. Divorced parents. Now a step-father who is loving but is not quite in sync with what David is ready to accept. Marvin’s own job is exciting but demanding. It would not be good to loose his focus and his caring and his style with this career. David, the son, as Marvin tries to think of David, is not quite able to accept the goodwill from Marvin. David’s school experience is declining – no close friends, not good grades, a spirit of depression. Will Marvin’s cross ever become lighter? How would you handle Marvin’s cross?
By now, does your own cross seem light in comparison with the crosses of Vera, Michelle, and Marvin?
Maybe you don’t even feel the cross on your back. That could be good or maybe you are not being the servant that God is expecting you to be. Maybe I don’t take my cross seriously enough.
Lydia’s cross is watching her language. She needs to retrain her mind to use only decent expressions, to think of everyone as a child of God and worthy of kind, affirming words and not put-downs or worse. She tries to overcome this cross by herself, by self-discipline. Not good! She finally realizes that only God can help her to rid herself of poor, negative attitude and speech. Slowly, Lydia is seeing results. People are reacting differently to her. They are getting the good and kind vibes.
Ben’s cross was addiction to alcohol before he gave his cross to God – to the Father, to Jesus, to the Holy Spirit. Ben was directed to an effective treatment center by the people who loved him. Directed is a mild word. They ganged up on him and cornered him into realizing how he was wasting his life and their lives. He had to do something to overcome. This treatment center was excellent. They directed him to give his problem to a higher power. They took him step-by-step to a guarded life of freedom. This freedom is not the freedom he thought the alcohol was giving him. This new freedom is freedom from dependence on alcohol or any other crutch which leads to despair over and over again. This new freedom allows for Ben to focus outward, to take responsibility for his family, for working, for joy. Now Ben has a different cross. He can be a servant to other people. He can be in relationship with the source of strength and even salvation.
Roseann’s cross is using her talents. God was very generous in giving Roseann the talent of care-giving. No college, no nursing degree. However, she knew she had the talent to make people comfortable, to do the hygiene requirements, to cook a meal, to clean a house, to take a temperature, to give insulin injections. She did take advantage of the training offered by her high school vocational/technical opportunities when she was working on her high school diploma in her teen years. Now she is earning a modest living helping people who have become friends. Using her talents – that is her cross. It is a good kind of cross.
How can we use our talents and our time to be servants, to bear the cross on our backs to help individuals and therefore society? Do you have a knack for construction work? Is that what you are doing or are you stuck in an office where each day is watching the clock for the magic quitting hour? Do you go home feeling tired and useless and grumpy? Sometimes we just need to trust. But not on our own strength! No, to change the cross on our back we need to go to God. How can we go to God when we can’t see or touch God?
God is as close as the cross on our backs. God hears and sees and just knows everything about us. But, God wants to hear our voice directly speaking to Godself. Saying, “Please help me” is not the secret. “Please help me, God!” is the secret. God probably wants to hear more monologue from us. God probably wants to hear how our anguish began and what we did about it. Maybe anguish does not fit our feelings. Maybe we just sense that things could be better. We feel guilty about something small. Then again we could be feeling guilty about something big.
Maybe we see something happening in our neighborhood or in the world and we say, “Why don’t they do this or that?” We begin to get pictures in our mind of how the problem could be solved or at least what one or two persons could get started. This cross becomes heavier and heavier until we finally decide to become involved. Then our cross feels lighter.
Margaret sees a beautiful world around her. Early in the morning when the dew is still on the grass and the flowers, Margaret takes her camera from her pocket and snaps a picture. Oh, she thinks, “If only I had time to paint this picture!” Snapping a picture is one thing. Painting it is another thing – time is needed but is very scarce for Margaret. Also, painting supplies do cost money which Margaret can barely afford. But, then . . . she breathed a prayer, remembering to start with the word God and sighing with the help of the Holy Spirit about wanting painting supplies. Then she noticed an ad in the paper about a local art store having their end-of-summer sale. I will just go look, Margaret thought. “God is with me.” she says to herself. Of course you can guess that the painting supplies were reduced enough for Margaret to buy a get-started supply. She walked inside her house where piles of work were sitting on her desk and, without thinking, she set up the easel, clipped the artist’s paper into place, opened the picture in her camera, dipped the paint brush into the pale blue and painted the background with delight. More delight as the flower took shape from her paint brush and the pink paint. “Hallelujah,” she shouted. “Thank you, God! I can barely feel my cross!”
What are you and I doing with the cross on our backs? Amen