I must admit I am attracted more to the “softer” side of Jesus than I am to the “hard love” side of Him. I would much rather focus on the “abundant life” and our “freedom” in Christ than on obedience and suffering. This Sunday’s gospel, however, requires us to look more closely at the suffering we will encounter in our walk with Jesus. In Matt 16:24, Jesus tells his disciples “to take up their cross and follow me.” We know Jesus does not mean this literally, but I have in fact literally taken up my cross and followed Him. This practice began on my first 150 mile Camino (i.e., pilgrimage) to Santiago de Compestela, where tradition holds that the bones of Saint James, Apostle of Jesus, are buried, and continued on my second Camino de Compestela. For 500 miles over a period of almost six weeks, I walked across northern Spain from France to Santiago carrying at all times in my hand this brass cross, which I made many years ago out of plumbing parts. It was not always, but it was a literal reminder during my pilgrimage that I was taking up my cross and following where Jesus led me. Last year, when I made another 2,500 mile pilgrimage across America on Route 66 by van with five other UM pastors, I carried it in my pocket all the way. Since then, I carry it daily in my left pants pocket as a constant reminder not only to take up my cross daily, but that life itself is a pilgrimage. Join us this Sunday as I preach on “Take Up Your Cross.”
Matt 16:24: Then Jesus told his disciples, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.