Monday, February 26, 2007

crosses and other difficult things

Lent is never an "easy" season; I feel it working on me, trying to refine me and get rid of my imperfections. That burns.

So, even while I see so many themes that I agree with, I find plenty in our texts for this week that makes me pause. And think about what it means for me, now.

In Philippians, Paul contrasts the people who are like him (Paul) to those who are "enemies of the cross of Christ."

Today, this caught me.

Enemies of Christ are one thing. Enemies of the CROSS of Christ...well...that's a whole 'nother thing. It seems to me that Paul is reminding us that faithful living is a difficult thing. It requires suffering--even crosses.

Ironically, incredibly, those who are "enemies of the cross of Christ" are the ones who end in destruction. Logic would seem to say that the way to avoid destruction would be to avoid crosses.

Clearly, this is a different kind of "cross"--a different kind of suffering--that we're being invited into.

It makes me think of a powerful song by Bernice Johnson Reagon, which she sang with Sweet Honey in the Rock. She starts with an old Afro-American spiritual, "Ain't that Good News", and then preaches a sermon in the middle. She says it's good news, but hard times we're called to. We're called to "lay down this world, shoulder up the cross," and that's the good news.

If I didn't know how rich life feels when I'm doing what I believe God to be calling me to, I'd say she was crazy.

Somehow, though, this cross-work IS good news. And, even better, it leads to our belonging. "Citizenship" in heaven, as Paul names it. Jesus uses the image of a mother hen gathering her chicks in safety to tell about how we belong in God's good news, in Luke's gospel.

When I look at the world, it seems like there's plenty of suffering already--we don't need to be taking up new crosses. But, I wonder, what might happen if we did a better job of sharing in carrying the suffering of the world?

If we are, after all, like Paul suggests, citizens of heaven, perhaps we share together in bearing the world, with all its hopes and all its pain.

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