Posted on 15 March 2012.
Pastor Mary Ivanov
Cedar Springs United Methodist Church
140 S. Main St., Cedar Springs
Read Mark 8: 27-38
Mark 8:34-38: Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.”
Have you ever received an invitation that you really wanted to accept, but to do so meant that you had to change your plans, sacrifice your time, or rearrange your schedule?
Jesus’ invitation is for anyone who wants to follow him and be a disciple. Three parts: deny yourselves, take up your cross, and follow me. The hardest words of Jesus. He calls for full commitment, a way of life that goes against worldly success, and taking risks in faith.
Mark Trotter tells the story of a woman who started running to keep in shape. She did well, going farther every day. She entered a 10K race and was nervous about her first race, so she got up early and arrived at the start of the race.
To her surprise there were a lot of people milling around, stretching, getting ready. All of a sudden a voice on the microphone said, “Move to the starting line.” A gun sounded and they were off, like a huge wave, hundreds of runners, sweeping her up. She was in the race.
After about four miles it occurred to her that they ought to be turning around and heading back to the finish line. She wondered why they didn’t turn around. She stopped and asked an official, “How come the course isn’t turning around?” He said, “Ma’am, you are running the Cleveland Marathon.” Twenty-six miles. Her event, the 10K, was supposed to start half an hour after the start of the marathon.
Some of us would have stopped right there and said, “That’s it, I’m going home.” But to her credit, she kept right on going, finished the race. She said, “This is not the race I trained for. This is not the race I entered. But for better or worse, this is the race that I am in.”
Jesus says, “If you are my disciple, then you will take up your cross and follow me, even to Jerusalem, even to the cross.”
In one conversation with a youth group about following Jesus, one of them said that to follow means not to lead. That may sound simple, but that’s exactly what we have to remember. We’re not in the lead when we accept the invitation that Jesus offers. We follow him.
To follow Jesus, we must remove our “me-first” attitude. To follow Jesus means “It’s not about me.” To follow Jesus is to claim the power of the cross—the cross that bears our sins. We try to avoid the cross and downplay our sin. But picture even a small stone tossed into a pool of water. The ripple effect is real. And our sin effects others,whether we think so or not.
But the cross isn’t just about our personal life. The cross gathers us into a community of love and forgiveness. We’re accountable to each another when we follow Christ. To follow Jesus means that we matter to each other.
Even though Jesus’ invitation is demanding, Jesus offers his help to carry it through. That’s the only way any of us can follow Christ, with God’s grace to guide us and brothers and sisters in Christ to encourage us.
One prayer says it this way: “Lord, do in me what you need to do so you can do through me what you desire to do.” How can you let Jesus lead you this week? Where is God calling you to follow—fully committed and taking risks in faith?
If you don’t have a church home or have been away for a while, consider getting back to church or trying it out for the first time. I invite you to worship with us this Sunday morning at 9:00 a.m. or 11:30 a.m. We share the love and hope of Jesus Christ!