In the audio podcast of this service, the Scripture Reading starts at 22 min 30 secs: Mark 8:31-38
The Sermon starts at 24 min 20 secs. “Cross Culture”
Raise your hand if you are wearing a cross… Raise your hand if you sometimes wear a cross… I have a daily cross and a Sunday cross that I wear. Now for much of our culture the cross is just a fashion statement. There are pretty crosses that you buy in the store; there are nice crosses that you make your-self. But this blurry New Yorker cartoon says it all. Two women walking out of church say to their orthodox priest: Fantastic crucifix!
But Jesus’ question for us this morning is: What does my cross mean? I bet that your crosses are more than fashion statements, as are mine. The one that you see every Sunday comes from the single greatest influence on my faith—my grandmother. This reminds me of my heritage to follow Jesus. The cross that you see me wear every day comes from one of my children. Joy took them to the Noah’s ark sight and sound show in Lancaster, PA several years ago. And they came back with a present for me from their allowance. My first or second grader said, Dad, I thought you’d like it. It was cheap! So this is my heritage and this is my inheritor. Symbol of what’s been passed and being passed. What does the cross mean?
But before we get into the cross’ meaning Jesus tells us that it cannot be avoided.
Jesus teaches in v. 31… must… This is the first announcement of the crucifixion in Mark, and it’s announced as a must, dei, in the Greek, which carries the idea that God compels it.
Now, like Peter, we think the cross, or suffering, should be avoidable. Jesus, surely we can patch things up with the Jewish leaders by going a little softer on the Messiah thing, and then we can be on our merry way, huh? Get behind me, Satan!
I try to avoid the cross through positive thinking. Every day, in every way, I’m getting better and better. Positive thinking, taken to the extreme, can simultaneously put your head in the clouds and in the sand. Or, we try to avoid the cross by voting for leaders who pamper us. Spend more on me. Cut my taxes. And then we wonder why the deficit doubled in the last 8 years, and may do more than that again. Or, we try to avoid the cross by investing with this guy. 15% return every year. Never a down year. Painless.
So if Jesus is indeed correct that everyone bears a cross, then what does it mean?
God intends real crosses, not decorative crosses, to be redemptive. Read with me Jesus’ profound words… How does cross-bearing, not just cross-wearing, save us? As I was thinking about this, this email came:
The cross that Jesus gives us prepares us for something. It can also be redemptive if we learn from it. Over the last 2 years I’ve lost more sleep over the death of our daughter church Ignite! than anything else. Often I prayed myself to sleep asking, Lord, help it to work out! But, as you may know, Ignite! never caught on so that it flickered out after 16 months. Not as much as David, our planter, but I was really disappointed. But to not languish in sadness we decided to write down some lessons. Here are the main ones:
Closer fit between NBRC, planter, community and vision;
Better NBRC prep in two ways by–a) recruiting a bigger core group before and,
b) putting the planter on staff here for a while to build more relationships towards a core;
and, wiser financial planning between salary and ministry money.
Now that may not make much sense to you, but we learned for next time through our pain.
Jesus’ cross redeems us by preparing us for other tough times, by teaching us, and by growing us closer to Him. Have you noticed that church has been a little fuller lately? Now either I’ve become a much better preacher since January, or America’s tough times are drawing people closer to God. As much as you might think its my preaching, I believe its our national hurt. Folks are aching for God’s hope right now. When the Dow Jones is down 52% then your faith better be up 60%. Ultimately only God can help us cope. Only God can give our leaders sufficient wisdom to restore confidence and empower creativity.
Lastly, the cross redeems us by showing us who we really are. Did you know that in Mark the first time that Jesus is publicly recognized as God’s Son is, yup, on the cross? The Roman centurion watched Jesus die exclaiming… And so it is that the cross shows us who we really are—sinners in need of God’s forgiving love. For it is here that Jesus died bearing the punishment of our sin so that we might live forever. May you know this!
So, in our culture the cross looks nice around necks, but more than a decoration, its a way of life. A way of living cross-culturally. For the church’s culture is a cross culture.
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