Beginnings and Endings – A Cruciform Existence


Biblical Text: Mark 6:1-30
Full Sermon Draft

Under the biblical text I put the full text I was drawing from. The reading is only Mark 6:1-13, but I think that cuts off a significant element of interpretation. What we see in this text is Jesus marveling at his rejection by his hometown because of what they “know”. They don’t really know anything, but what they “know” gets in the way of actually seeing. What this represents is the start of the hard opposition and rejection of Jesus. His ministry which has been one of crowds and superficial acceptance up until this point makes a turn toward the cross. At the same time he sends out the twelve. This is the beginning of their ministry. So we have the beginning and the beginning of the end in the same story.

What that highlights for us is the nature of Kingdom growth. The Kingdom grows not because of any individual ministry, but it grows through multiplication, through death and resurrection. A seed falls to the ground and produces a hundred fold. Jesus’ successful ministry healed people one at a time. We he was nailed to a tree, he healed the entire world. God’s power is revealed most sure in weakness, in the midst of the trial. And that is what the stories the church tells, the lives of the saints reflect most clearly.

Recording note: The hymn left in is Fight the Good Fight (LSB 664). The lyrics and the music reflect that cruciform nature of discipleship in this world. Success is not about the outward appearance, but about Fighting the Good Fight, Keeping the Faith, because God’s definition of success is found in Christ.

A Cruciform Life

Biblical Text: Mark 8:27-38
Full Text

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.