He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. - Mark 8:34
Well, these days I guess we'd say that Jesus needs to work on his branding. Or maybe he could use a better PR guy. I mean, how many people are going to jump at the chance to take up their cross and follow Jesus to his death? How many people will respond to the idea of losing their lives in order to find them? Peter could tell Jesus' blunt message wasn't going over so well with the crowds. He pulled him aside to sharply suggest some edits. But Jesus would have none of it. He tells Peter to cut it out and basically says that if you're not up for the hard stuff, then you're not up to the journey.
In our Good Book Club discussion last Sunday, we were wondering why God chose to be incarnated in Jesus, a little known Nazarene, who struggled side by side with those who were outcast until he himself was crucified for all his efforts. Why didn't God just send that fabled Savior Messiah - the one who'd ride in on a white horse and just - well - SOLVE everything? Why is there still so much continuing struggle in the world today? Can God not do anything about it? Why did God enter into the suffering instead of simply eradicating it? What kind of a "savior" would do that? If you're wondering, we didn't come up with definitive answers to these questions! But we get a lot out of the questions. And we also recognized that it is nonetheless somehow very good news that God is right with those who suffer when the going gets tough.
In this season of Lent, we may find ourselves feeling more in touch with the struggles of this world than usual, as well as with our own internal struggles. How do we understand God to be present to us in the midst of life's persistent struggles? Come ask the big questions not only this Sunday morning, but also at the next Good Book Club gathering at 3pm on Sunday afternoon. Come be a part of the generations long, ongoing conversation of faith.