People of the Cross
Second Sunday of Lent
During my years in the bookstore, there were two kinds of people who always succeeded in putting everyone in a bad mood: mean people, and especially, people who stole. People would steal just about every day—and most got away with it. We’d find out about their crimes AFTER they’d left the building…
I once had an employee tell me of a customer who was tearing recipes out of cookbooks and stuffing them in her purse. That same day, a customer told me of a man stealing our soap from the restroom.
We all see this same kind of behavior in people every day, from loony lawsuits and scam artists to corporate greed and white collar crimes. It’s absolutely sickening how greedy some people are—and how low they’ll go to satisfy their appetites. And yet, this same greed exists inside of all of us. If this were not true, none of us would be sinners. We all make gods of our bellies, in that we make our needs and wants the authority in how we live and what we do. Most of the time, we act out our greed without even giving it a second thought—because it is in our nature.
Greed is the disease of our civilization. We’re all guilty of it—and we’re all victims of it.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus finds himself in the crosshairs of human greed. Some Pharisees warn him that King Herod wants to kill him. And Jesus has good cause to be afraid—because Herod has already beheaded John the Baptist. Yet Jesus knows that Herod won’t be the one to orders his death. Jesus will die in Jerusalem—and the man in charge there goes by the name Pontius Pilate.
So today we find Jesus in a moment of extreme grief—yet he is not grieving his fate. Jesus is grieving the fact that the people he came to save couldn’t care less that he’s among them. Soon, his very own will be shouting, “crucify him!”
Even his closest disciples will deny him. His precious and innocent blood will be spilled in the mud—and nobody cares.
Fast forward two thousand years—and little has changed.
Still, we reject him. We dismiss his promises; we ignore his commands. We won’t even give him the time of day—so that he can love us.
Because we have more important things to do… We have to keep up our schedules; stick to our plans. God forbid that we’d miss out on “more important things” for Jesus… God forbid, we would inconvenience ourselves, disrupt our plans, or be even the slightest bit uncomfortable for his sake.
The scandal of the cross is that Jesus still bears it for us in spite of our rejection of him. Still, he desires to gather us together as a hen gathers her brood beneath her wings. Still, we are not forsaken.
The time has come for us to stop trying to feed our bellies with the fat of the land, and gather around the cross. The time has come for us to just let Jesus love us.
So how are we doing this second Sunday of Lent? How faithful have you been in your prayer life? Reading your bibles and devotionals? How many times have you just said to God, “thank you?” Has your gratitude translated itself into acts of caring and generosity? Have you been telling others about your faithful Savior?
Are you willing to take up your cross and follow Jesus in love and obedience?
The cross is more than just a symbol to decorate our walls and wear upon a chain. The cross is the power of God that breaks us from our insatiable greed. It redeems us from the powers of evil and delivers us from the jaws of our destruction. The cross is the sure sign from God that death and evil will not have the last word in God’s world.
By grace we are made citizens of heaven, because Jesus has acted to give clean hands, pure hearts, and new lives. By grace we are delivered from certain destruction, so that Jesus may indeed gather us together as a hen gathers her brood beneath her wings.
Such a love demands more than just our attention. Such a love demands our all.
So let us come to the cross to stand up and be counted as beloved children of God in Jesus Christ. Let us come to the cross to commit ourselves to live as people of the cross.
Let us come and listen as Jesus speaks to us through the Word. Let us hear him speak his words of unconditional love. Let us listen as his Word exposes the sins in our lives, to receive his forgiveness. Let us listen as Jesus calls us to the better we can live by obeying his Word.
Let us be a thankful people. Jesus as the greatest treasure in our lives, worth more than anything we can have, achieve, or enjoy from the world. And Jesus is a presence in our lives. So let us thank him for giving his life for our sake. Let us thank him for every gift we receive that sustains us in life. Let us thank him for all the ways he helps us in our time of need.
Finally, let us stop constantly thinking about ourselves, and set our minds upon practicing Christ’s self-giving love in our own lives. The people in our lives aren’t there by accident. So let us love them as graciously as we are loved. Let us be the opened arms of Jesus Christ to each other. This is the better way to live.
Living by the cross is the surest way to witnessing the awesome power of Christ’s resurrection every day. This Lent, let us gather at the cross of Jesus—in the presence of Jesus.