Biblical Text: Mark 8:27-38
I remember looking at these texts and thinking – ugh. There are subjects which the church’s teaching may not be in complete harmony with the culture, but it heading the same general direction. You can think probably anything to do with charity. Church people tend to think charity is a good thing. Likewise anything that pronounces the blessing of God on his people. And then there is the cross or suffering. Our culture – most cultures – have a definition of success that is high on material goods and the pursuit of happiness. Does this make me look better – if yes its success, if no its a failure. What disciples of Jesus have to understand is that God’s definition of success has nothing in common with that. The height of success to God is found at the foot of the cross. Hence the life of a disciple takes on a cruciform shape. As Paul would write in the Epistle lesson – we rejoice in our sufferings. Even Jesus dumbfounded his disciples on that one. Peter rebuked him for saying that the cross was in the future. It never left him, but Luther would talk less the theology of the cross and more the freedom of a christian the older he got. What is a simple parson, and largely a fat, dumb and happy one, to do with “pick up your cross and follow me”?
But there it is. We all will bear our cross. The successful life to God is one of faithfulness – regardless of the call and what it looks like. And the crux is to understand that while suffering – we rejoice in our sufferings.
I ended with a small coda, a poem that I think carried some of the strangeness of this to us. For a while it was possible in the US to life a life of discipleship after the apostle John. I fear we are heading more toward the Peter’s and the Paul. When the archbishop of Chicago says things like – “I’ll die in my bed, my successor will die in prison, and his a martyr in the public square” – the cross sounds more real and less spiritual.