Here is the right video. Apologies – not sure what happened there!
‘If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.’
Jesus has harsh words for his disciples this week. We have jumped forward to the middle of Mark’s gospel where Jesus’ friends have seen miracles and thousands of people flocking to hear Jesus’ teachings. They have seen the extraordinary and now he is saying that it won’t end in a palace with good living and servants tending to their every need but with suffering and the cross. The people who listened to Mark’s gospel for the first time some forty years later knew that the story didn’t end there. They knew that there would be joy and resurrection but it still remains a temptation today to ignore the tough parts of the journey and fast forward to the end. The Christian story is one of resurrection and life in all its fullness, but it doesn’t sugar coat the calling on all Christians to take up their cross and follow Jesus. It is just hard to hear.
So how do we reflect on this gospel story at a time of Covid? We heard the good news this week that all restrictions that have been placed on our lives may be over by midsummer. With the spring flowers peeking out over the soil and better weather this week it has meant a great lifting in mood for many of the people I’ve spoken to this week. The temptation is to put this past year behind us and race forward to how it always was.
This is likely to bring disappointment.
It is human nature to want to create a happy ending. That is why our fairy tales finish with the line ‘and they all lived happily ever after.’ We know that in real life that doesn’t happen. Life is much more complicated and random. Bad things happen to good people yet we persist in believing the universe is fair and if we play by the rules all we will be safe. The last year has taught us that this really, really is not the case. The virus doesn’t respect a framework of fairness however much we want it to be true.
Jesus teaches his disciples that following his way will not be easy. There will be opposition. Perhaps the most powerful opposition is within ourselves.
As we look back over the past year it is easy to downplay what has been hard. You hear people say ‘others have it worse’ and not look at their own grief and loss. Or perhaps how much the last year has been really good but that is not the story that people want to hear.
The journey of a Christian is transformation into the likeness of Christ but if we can’t look at how we have felt during the last year how can we look at bigger issues in our lives? If we can’t look at ourselves how can we pick up our cross.
Maybe that is our cross.
It is said in work with trauma that if it can’t be named it can’t be healed. In Christian language that is the beginning of repentance which is the work of Lent.
Can we acknowledge that there is a cross in our lives? That it is our work to carry it? Can we name the pain and loss and bring it before the one who loves us more than we can imagine?
For those who lose their life for my sake and for the sake of the gospel will save it’