Take Up Your Cross
by St. Pauls UMC
A nice girl brought her fiancé home to meet her parents.
After dinner, her mom tells her dad to find out about the young man.
The father invites the fiancé to his room for a chat.
"So what are your plans?" the father asked.
The conversation proceeds, and each time the father's questions are answered
with the fiancé insisting that God will provide.
Later that evening while getting ready for bed, the mother asks the father, "So
how did it go?"
The father shrugs and says, "He has no plan for a future, no job prospects and
he thinks I am God."
I was surprised with data of the American Religious Identification Survey. It
says as of 2012, 75 % of American identified themselves as Christians. 36% of
Americans state that they attend worship services nearly every week. 9% of
American said that faith is the most important thing in their life, compared
with 45% who said family is paramount in their life and 17 % who said money and
career is paramount.
My loving sisters and brothers,
Are you belonging to the 9% of Americans who said that faith is the most
important thing in your life or 17% who said money and career is paramount?
I am not saying that we don't need money but I am saying that money is not
paramount. Of course, we need money for a new church copy machine. The copy
machine does not work properly. Linda, our Administrative assistant, struggles
to make copies every week.
I don't understand how 75% of American identified themselves as Christian, and
36 % of American attended worship services every week, but only 9 % said faith
is the most important thing in their lives.
My beloved sisters and brothers,
What is your purpose of coming to church and worshipping God? The purpose of our
worship is to glorify, honor, praise, exalt, and please God. Our worship must be
Worship is not one time act but the process of surrendering our entire life into
Today's Gospel reading follows on from the momentous statement that Peter
confessed, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God when Jesus asked him
the question, "Who do you say that I am?"
Here is my question. What did Peter mean when he said, "You are the Christ, the
Son of living God"?
As a matter of fact, the Jews including Peter and all disciples were waiting and
expecting the Messiah, the Christ, the One who would save them from the Roman
Empire because they were colonized. They wanted to build a new kingdom when
their Messiah would come. That was why their Messiah should be a political and
military leader like King David, the powerful warrior who could conquer and
rescue them to build a new kingdom.
When Peter confessed, "Jesus, You are the Christ, the Son of living God," he
definitely thought, "Now we can be set free from the power of the Roman Empire
because Jesus, who has done all miracles, can rescue us from the Roman
But Jesus was not the conquering hero that Peter expected. Indeed,
Jesus foretold his disciples his death and resurrection.
So what does it mean today to us that Jesus is "the Christ, the Son of the
I believe that Jesus answered that question in our Gospel reading today when he
said in v. 24, "If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and
take up their cross and follow me."
Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a German Theologian and Pastor who was executed by the
Nazi's in 1945 for opposing their ideology and military campaign. He said,
"Salvation without sacrifice is cheap grace."
My loving sisters and brothers,
Jesus never taught us ‘cheap grace' but asks us to deny ourselves and to take up
our cross and to follow him.
Denying ourselves is like this.
It is like two dogs fighting inside us. There is one good dog who wants to do
the right and the other dog always wants to do the wrong. Sometimes the good dog
seems stronger and is winning the fight. But sometimes the bad dog is stronger
and wrong is winning the fight.
Here is my question to you.
Who is going to win in the end? The answer is the one you feed.
To take up the cross means to sacrifice. In other words, we open ourselves to
being and doing what God wants.
During the civil war, Abraham Lincoln met with a group of ministers for a prayer
breakfast. At one point, one of the ministers said, "Mr. President, let us pray
that God is on our side." Lincoln thought and responded, "No, gentleman, let us
pray that we are on God's side."
Lincoln reminded those ministers that religion is not a tool by which we get God
to do what we want but an invitation to open ourselves to being and doing what
Do you have your own cross to take up in your life?
What is your cross in your life, in your house, and in this church? Let us take
up our cross and follow Jesus because that is the way we are on God's side.
Source: St. Pauls United Methodist Church, Bay Head, NJ
"I am a biblical scholar," the fiancé replied.
"Oh, A biblical scholar, Admirable, but what are you going to do to provide a nice house for my daughter?" the father asks."I will study and God will provide," came the reply.
"And how will you buy her the beautiful engagement ring she deserves?"
"I will concentrate on my studies and God will provide."
"And children? How will you support children?"
"Don't worry, sir. God will provide."
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