Saturday, September 12, 2009

Cross Training

Another shortie this week. Which my daughter will be glad of. She says I write too long. That was after she came and said she finally finished April - I’m catching up, she declared.

The reason for the shortness is that there is work to do! First of all I have to attend a District Training session to learn how to do something I’m not all that excited about doing. But I gotta. So, I’m going. But I’ve got lots of attitude tips from my teenagers to draw upon.

Anyway, that is going to take most of my Saturday. Then when I get back I need to help La Donna get ready for the Confirmation Party that we are having after church on Sunday. Since it is Maddie’s Confirmation. I guess I can blame Kent for that, since he set the date.

So, there isn’t the time to leisurely approach the biblical issues. I’m just throwing it out there, and you can make of it what you will. I don’t have the time or the inclination at the moment. So, here you go:
Mark 8:27-36 Jesus went on with his disciples to the villages of Caesarea Philippi; and on the way he asked his disciples, "Who do people say that I am?" 28 And they answered him, "John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets." 29 He asked them, "But who do you say that I am?" Peter answered him, "You are the Messiah." 30 And he sternly ordered them not to tell anyone about him. 31 Then he began to teach them that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. 32 He said all this quite openly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. 33 But turning and looking at his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, "Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things." 34 He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, "If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 35 For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. 36 For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life?

Great, just great. I can’t even whine on a scripturally appropriate day! Why couldn’t it have been one of those laments from Jeremiah, wishing he’d never been born? Why couldn’t it have been Ezekiel plumb tuckered out in the desert saying, I might as well be dead? Why couldn’t it have been some Psalmist complaining about the load he was carrying and wishing God would show up and make things all better? Why?
Because it is Confirmation Sunday, that’s why. Which is a Sunday that is great for a group of young people who have spent some several months studying the faith and now get a chance to make a declaration before the body. But more than that it is an opportunity for all of us to remember that moment, to remember our own Caesarea Philippi.

You remember that day, don’t you? When you said "Jesus Christ is Lord!" in a public kind of way. And when you did, you also said "Jesus Christ is My Lord" whether you remember that part or not. And when you declare an allegiance to a Lord, then you follow. Even on the days when you don’t really want to.

I took a vow to be obedient to the Word and Order of the United Methodist Church, so I’m going off to a seminar tomorrow. In part it means submitting to authority, even when I’m not sure of the bigger picture. In part it means trusting that there is value in this small obedience, even when I can’t see it right now. I will go because I took a vow of ordination.

Before that I took a vow to uphold the church with my prayers and presence and gifts and service (and would have included witness if it was a part of the vows at that time). And one way to uphold the church is by celebrating when another daughter or son says yes to the church as well. It is not just a small thing that Maddie will do Sunday morning, it is something worth celebrating. So, I’ll help - when I get back - and light a lamp and sweep the corners looking for my lost joy, and when I find it I’ll call the neighbors and say come and celebrate with my daughter, who went to Caesarea Philippi this morning and came home a member of the church, and a follower of Jesus the Christ.

If you read Mark’s account carefully, you’ll discover that Jesus never promised us a rose garden. He never promised us that we would only go the directions we wanted to go. He never promised that it would be easy, or always fun, or at least painless. In fact he said some uncomfortable things about carrying a cross. That doesn’t sound easy or fun or painless.

And the odd thing here is that he doesn’t tell us to get nailed to a cross. He doesn’t ask that we take a plunge and get all the difficult stuff done with. He asks us to live daily as followers. He asks us to pick up that cross and carry it. All the time. Any place. Day by day, giving ourselves up, spending ourselves little by little. Cross training. We’re in it for the long haul.

In fact, as I look it over again, the only thing he promised is that he would go first.

Follow me, he said, follow me.