Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Christ Crucified

Today's reflection on the Daily Texts:

By his bruises we are healed. – Isaiah 53:5

Christ himself bore our sins in his body on the cross. – 1 Peter 2:24

Two-year reading texts: Psalm 106:1-5; Judges 20:32-21:25; Luke 22:63-71

The cross is at the center of my reflections today. The verses of the day point to the atoning work of Jesus on the cross, and the Luke 22 reading marches him another step along the way. It's been a long time since I've been through a slow-motion daily reading of the passion story like this. More often, I read it quickly, or maybe watch a movie that shows the whole story from triumphal entry through Easter morning in a couple of hours. But this week, it's been a few verses each day from Luke's gospel. The preparations for Passover. The Last Supper. His teaching. The garden of Gethsemane. His Arrest. Peter's denial. Today, the trial by the religious leaders. A slow advance in the story each day makes me think about how it all unfolded for Jesus and his first disciples. Some time of waiting and watching, then another development moving him closer to the cross, each one more wrenching than the last. Then repeat, again and again.

This perspective is helpful in pondering what is "the way of the cross" for us today. Our lives are to be shaped like his, and we're called to come and die, to carry our own cross. In humility and obedience and service, in a life given up for God's purposes, we proclaim Christ crucified in what we say, in what we do, and in how we go about it. When we commit to a certain phase of the journey, it might require time and attention and energy and sacrifice, personal cost in many ways. Sometimes this comes with a weariness and dread. In the larger view, I believe the whole church around the world is being called onto the way of the cross, dying to forms and traditions that we've known and loved, and that have worked well for previous generations in proclaiming Christ. As the world moves, and new generations learn and live and work and serve in different ways, the church that's increasingly made up of these new generations will change too. At this moment in history, church leaders, both lay and clergy, have hard choices ahead as we seek to follow where God calls. The road is difficult, and long, and confusing. No human guides can show us the way. All we know is that God calls us forward.

In such a time as this, it's a gift of grace to be able to recognize and reflect on Jesus' way to the cross. He gives us a model of faithfulness and inspiration. And most of all, he is the way. The thing that unfailingly leads us forward us the cross. We keep Christ crucified at the center of our vision. We follow in his footsteps. We aim for what gives the clearest, most unobstructed view of the cross. We give up whatever else would call us away from walking in his way.

This week I pray for eyes and ears to see and hear the way. I pray for the gift of seeing human needs, so that I can equip myself and others to proclaim Christ crucified, in the language and with the kind of healing required. And I pray for God's guidance through the unfolding steps of the way we walk in today, with the future yet unwritten but already in God's hands.

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