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Posts Tagged ‘carrying the cross’

'5. Simon of Cyrene carries the cross' photo (c) 2009, AJ Alfieri-Crispin - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

Here is a sermon one could preach on Passion Sunday, or adapt for Holy Thursday or Good Friday:

“I Am Available!”

A Sermon on Mark 15:21

All of a sudden, Simon of Cyrene found himself in the wrong place at the wrong time!  We don’t know when or how Simon had traveled from Cyrene, Northern Africa, to Jerusalem.  We don’t know whether he had just recently arrived as a pilgrim for the Passover Festival, or whether he was an immigrant, a resident alien.  We do know that Simon was on foreign soil and there he found himself where he never, ever expected to be: in the middle of three criminals on their way to being crucified.

Simon happened to be heading into town just when the Roman execution detail was leading the criminals out of town to the Place of the Skull.  Like all condemned to crucifixion, the prisoners carried the horizontal crossbeams on their shoulders.  It was obvious that one of the prisoners, Jesus, wasn’t going to make it without help.

Impatient to get on with it, one of the soldiers singled Simon out of the crowd.  Did Simon stick out as an outsider perhaps?  “You there!  Get over here and carry this man’s cross!”  It was an order Simon couldn’t refuse.  At any time and for any reason, Roman soldiers could compel anybody to carry their gear.  In the wrong place at the wrong time, Simon of Cyrene was forced to carry a humiliating burden.

Where was Simon Peter?  Where were the rest of Jesus’ disciples?   Not available!  And this was after Simon Peter had declared, “I will always be available.  I will never deny you!  I will always be there even if I have to die with you!”  All the others had said the same thing.  But what happened?  As soon as Jesus was arrested, as soon as they were at risk, they all left him and ran away.

Simon Peter tried to follow at a safe distance, just to see what would happen.  Three times people recognized him as one of Jesus’ followers, but every time he denied it.  Where were the people who claimed to love Jesus, who claimed they would go “with him, with him all the way?”  Sorry.  Not available.  Instead of denying themselves and taking up the cross, they denied Jesus and left him to carry the weight alone.

It was more than the literal weight of the crossbeam.  It was the weight of everything that oppresses humanity.  It was the weight of suffering, of sin, of every terror, of everything harmful.  It was the weight of death.  All this weight Jesus took on himself in order to heal us.  This load was his call.  It was his mission.

In Jesus Christ, God made himself totally available to humanity, available even unto death, so that we can live.  This meant pain.  This meant loneliness.  Jesus needed his friends.  He needed them to stay awake with him as he sorrowed in the garden.  But they fell asleep on him.  He needed his friends to travel the way of the cross with him.  But they ran from it.  He needed his friends to help him carry the load of the cross.  But they weren’t available.

That first Good Friday, Jesus’ disciples were just plain afraid.  They went into self-protective mode.  But fear isn’t the only thing that prevents Jesus’ disciples from being fully available to him.  Fear isn’t all that makes us shy from the cross.  Sometimes our hands are just too full of other things to help Christ carry his load: “I see your need, Lord.  I see where somebody needs to act on your mission.  But my hands are full.  Maybe I can help after I get all my own business taken care of.  Call me again when I’m not so busy.” (more…)

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