Someone Needs The Wood

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Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 56; 149, Nehemiah 13:4-22, Revelation 20:1-6, Matthew 16:21-28


You may have heard the expression, “Get off the cross; someone else needs the wood.” It’s generally used in response to someone who engages in showy, unnecessary, and/or self-inflicted martyrdom – probably over something trivial. It also implies the person is casting themselves in the role of a victim.

When Christ told his disciples “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me” was he asking them to become victims? Perhaps if the only way we can define victory is through someone else’s defeat, we might think so. But the sacrifice Christ calls us to make is not just martyrdom to prove our loyalty to him. As his sacrifice was not for himself, but for others – for the world – so our own cross is not just about us.

In places around the world, simply declaring one’s faith may lead to a figurative or literal cross. In most of the western world, however, we are free to slap crosses on buildings, merchandise, jewelry, and even our own bodies without experiencing any real persecution. Since sacrifice is central to the Christian tradition, in the absence of actual crosses we manufacture persecution when we are forced to share public space and accommodation with people who do not believe or behave as we do.

Every year Christian culture warriors want us to believe a cheery utterance of “Happy Holidays” in the local big box store serving people of all faiths (and no faith) is an offense we need to confront with an aggressive “Merry Christmas” that represents Christ in an extremely poor light. It’s not enough to live our values, we want to force others to observe them as well. Did Jesus ever force anyone to do anything? We do it to accomplish the mental contortion necessary to bully our way to victimhood.

Focusing our attention on a cross no one asked us to build and draping ourselves in a shroud of victimhood may prove our loyalty to Christianity™ but not to Christ. The victory and sacrifice of the cross we are meant to carry is found in humility and service. In the absence of persecution, we are still fully capable of making loving sacrifices: patience, kindness, charity, not insisting on our own way, giving from our excess (and sometimes our basics) so others may have enough … all that Bible stuff.

Deep faith and witness don’t need to be branded with the cross like some product logo; when it’s real, people will want it without having to be sold on it. Tearing it down to give the wood to someone in need may be the biggest sacrifice of ego we can make.

Comfort: With Christ as our savior, we are never victims.

Challenge: Don’t look for reasons to be offended. Look for reasons to be merciful.

Prayer: O Lord, I put my trust in you. Thank you for the love that frees me from all other needs. Amen.

Discussion: Have you ever played the victim, maybe without realizing it until later?

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Cross Training

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Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 96; 147:1-11, 2 Samuel 9:1-13, Acts 19:1-10, Mark 8:34-9:1


“If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 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.”

These words highlight a turning point in Christ’s ministry. All the miraculous healings and signs are revealed to be part of a bigger picture in which anyone who wanted to follow him needed to be willing to share in the sacrifice.

This talk of the cross wouldn’t have had any of the redemptive connotations we associate with it today thanks to our clear hindsight about the resurrection. It would be more like being asked to accompany him to the electric chair or the gallows. The crosses we wear today as jewelry or hang as decorations would have been horrifyingly morbid.

Have time and the marketing of Christianity diminished our sense of the cross in the western world? “Having a cross to bear” usually refers to some personal ailment or struggle, unconnected to any greater salvific purpose. In a predominantly Christian society (about seventy-five percent according to a December 2015 Gallup poll), our faith is hardly risky despite our efforts to spin holiday greetings into a crisis. In a culture where it’s possible to legislatively force others to observe our own values, we are rather more likely to be builders of the cross than its bearers; the dictators rather than the risk-takers.

Picking up the cross represents willingness to sacrifice everything to follow Christ and love God. For most of us it’s not lifted overhead in a single clean-and-jerk motion, but through a lifetime of spiritual exercise. These words marked the end of disciple boot camp, the end of being toy Christian soldiers, and the beginning of putting that training to use. We train not to be the kind of soldiers who kill for a cause, but who will die for it. When we surrender to the weight of the cross, the demanding yoke is made easy, the difficult burden made light.

Comfort: Giving up your life sounds scary, but it’s liberating.

Challenge: Pay attention for crosses. When you see them, reflect on what they represent.

Prayer: Gracious God, give me the strength to let go of all that might stand between me and you.

Discussion: Other than the cross, what Christian symbols are meaningful to you and why?

Join the discussion! If you enjoyed this post, feel free to join an extended discussion as part of the C+C Facebook group. You’ll be notified of new posts through FB, and have the opportunity to share your thoughts with some lovely people. Or feel free to comment here on WordPress, or even re-blog – the more the merrier!

The Cross

My brother John Schultz recorded a cover of “The Cross” by Prince.

I love this version and hope you do too.