The Cross we bear.

Homily 492 – 3rd GL
Holy Transfiguration Orthodox Church, Ames, Iowa
March 27, 2022
Epistle: (311) Hebrews 4:14-5:6
Gospel: (37) Mark 8:34-9:1
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, One God.

We have a lot of ideas about what it means to take up one’s cross. Some have the idea that a cross is something that we don’t want to do but do anyway.

Some think that the cross we bear is the circumstance we find ourselves needing to endure. Still others believe the cross is the character flaw we need to work on, and hopefully fix.

Still others believe that the cross is the yoke that Christ tells us is very light.

All of these are true to an extent, but fail to capture the complete essence of the cross that we bear. To discover that, we need to look at the cross that Christ bore.

We need to go back to the Garden of Gethsemane. Christ prayed that the cup might pass from Him. Three times, with emotion and feeling and angst so high that the sweat was drops of blood.

That prayer, sincere, emotional, everything that it was, was placed in subjection to God’s will – your will be done, Father, not my will. And that was the cross the Lord picked up.

In His case, a physical cross – but also including betrayal, mocking, scourging, denial. Humanly, all the things that are the extreme of bad. And in His Divinity, experiencing with His Humanity, to experience the absence of God the Father – the cause and source of Life. To be forsaken.

And, ultimately, to die, and to consume death itself, and to rise again from the dead.

All of that – everything from the Garden of Gethsemane to the Praetorium with Pilate, to Golgatha nailed to the tree, to the depths of Hades, to the empty tomb – all of that is the Cross.

We can look at it and say that what Christ agreed in the Garden was lived out – and that was the Cross He bore.

It is the cross that we are asked to bear. It isn’t identical – we are not necessarily asked to physically ascend a wooden tree and offer ourselves as a sacrifice.

But we are asked to deny ourselves. That is clear from the Gospel this morning. We are asked to deny ourselves.

The cross we are asked to bear, our cross, is the living out of that self-denial.

It is considering that nothing we possess belongs to us, and freely offering it to those in need. It is a life trusting that God provided for us yesterday, and today, and will provide tomorrow.

It is giving God every credit for everything that happens, whether we consider it good, or bad. It is looking only for God’s approval in everything that we do – regardless, or even in spite, of what humanity and society tell us.

It is being like Job – faithful, unquestioning of God, even in the midst of having everything, including our health, taken from us. It is considering the needs of those around us before our own needs.

Perhaps most difficult, it is enduring the ridicule and abandonment of those around us – perhaps those closest to us, even – who say that we are crazy, foolish, and stupid for the decisions we are making.

It is giving up everything – and everyone – for the kingdom of Heaven, and the approval of our God and Creator.

That – that – is the cross we bear. It is the same cross that Christ bore.

Now – we don’t have to bear that cross. Christ didn’t have to bear that cross. He could, as He said, have called out legions of angels to defend Him. Legions are a lot, by the way. Based on what I could find, a legion was about 6,000 soldiers.

But what state would humanity be in if Christ had exercised that out? We would still be unreconciled to God. We would still be divorced, separated, from our Creator. We would, perhaps, still be awaiting on deliverance from the Messiah.

What happens when we reject that cross? When we practice self-indulgence, not self-denial?

We remain cut off from the source of Life, unreconciled to God, lost in a creation without meaning, without wonder, without – life. We become hypocrites. Saying that we follow Christ, but not really following Christ.

In reality, by rejecting the self-denial and rejecting our cross – rejecting the life of self-denial – we are rejecting our humanity. We can’t be Christian, and shouldn’t call ourselves Christian, and recognize that we aren’t even human.

People may and do say – Father, those are strong words! And they would be right. They are strong words. And we, as humans, will fail frequently in our effort to be human, even with the strength of our Lord flowing through us.

Thank God – Thank God – that is why we are provided forgiveness. So that we, unlike the angels, we can repent – we can change our minds. We can fail, and we can try again.

We will fail – and we must commit today to try again. That is repentance.

Because in the final analysis – the Last Judgement – we will be judged not by our success in living a Christian life, nor by our failures in living a Christian life, but by our faithfulness in living a Christian life.

Faithfulness – repentance. Ultimately, that is the Cross we bear.

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, One God.