Sermon: Ordinary 13, Year A – Carry your Cross

Text: Matthew 10:37-42

In the name of the +Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

We’ll begin with an illustration:

A homeless man is begging on the streets of London. As usual he is being ignored by all who pass him by. A well-dressed man in a stretch limo pulls up next to him and offers him a job as a Director of his company. You might think that sounds like a fairy tale; but that is exactly what God has done for us. We don’t deserve it, but he asks us to be a part of his kingdom and work for it.
What must be going through the mind of the homeless man? First, he will have to give up what is familiar to him. Obviously, it is a terrible life, but it is the only life he knows how to live. Secondly, he has a few possessions he carries around in bags, and the few clothes he owns are on his back.

One of the conditions the man in the limousine makes is that the man must leave everything and get in the car. Thirdly, the man will actually have to work and accept responsibility. Life on the street was bad, but at least no one expected anything from him. No one expected him to be any different. He’d become comfortable there. So he turns away from the man in the expensive suit, rejecting his offer.
Does the man in the story understand what he has given up? He would have had a home, a job, wealth, a high position and a purpose in life. But he passed it up to keep what he had. What a shame. This is why Jesus said,

  “Whoever does not take up the cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. ” (Matt 10:38-39).

Put yourself in his place – what will you do? Think about all the old stuff that you will have to give up. Or, worse, think about all the new stuff you’ll have to take up! Think about all the effort you’ll have to put in to learn new things and new ways of working.

But what if you understood that you were in line to inherit the business? You were not just a partner, you were an heir. And the reason you were selected was that the man in the limousine, unknown to you, was really your father who had searched until he found you. He knew your potential. He understood what you were capable of. He wanted to call you more than one of the Directors; he wanted to call you his child.

Jesus understood that he was God’s son and that he had been given a great responsibility. It was a hard thing God asked of him before he could take up his crown: to “undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed…” but Jesus faced it squarely and spoke of it openly so that his disciples and friends would understand what he was about. But, of course, they didn’t understand, not even Peter who sometimes seemed so close to understanding and had so much faith in Jesus.

Peter was “setting his mind not on divine things but on human things.” He was thinking with human wisdom, not God’s holy wisdom. Peter sought to counsel his friend and master and protect him and the other disciples from the impending violence that Jesus suggested would follow soon. And Jesus had harsh words for Peter, he wouldn’t allow himself to be dissuaded from the course of action he knew to be right and knew to be part of God’s plan for saving his creation.

Most of the time God won’t be asking us to do anything dramatic like become the vice-president of a major company – but the Christian challenge begins TODAY. It is renewed each day. Each day we carry the crosses we have to bear: the challenge of the gospel, the imperative of sharing this good news of what Christ does in our lives with others, each day. These are our missionary challenges. Don’t think that you can sit back and let someone else carry that cross for you. The challenge is for you.

Not everyone is required to die for their faith. What God will ask of us, is to live the life he has given us, with all it’s ups and downs, joys and hardships. Our eternal life isn’t waiting for us in the afterlife, it starts here, so we mustn’t let it pass us by – we need to try to live it to the full with all the courage we can summon and then, in faith, take courage from him who leads the way by dying and rising again after three days.

There’s a story of a weak sickly man who lived far away from the nearest town and couldn’t get to a doctor, he seemed to be getting worse.

He lived in a remote cottage, very picturesque, except for the huge boulder in the front garden.

One night, when he’d finally got to sleep, he had a vivid dream in which God told him to go outside and push the rock all day long, day after day.

The man got up early in the morning, full of excitement as the dream had inspired him to push the rock. He pushed all day until sundown, only resting a short while.

The rock-pushing gave meaning and a framework for his life where he’d had none before.
Day after day he pushed. Days turned into weeks, and weeks into months, and he faithfully pushed against the rock.

The summer passed and the weak sickly man became tired of pushing the rock and in his tiredness he started to doubt his dream.

So one day he measured from his porch to the rock and then, at the end of each days pushing, he measured again to see how much he had moved the rock.

After two weeks of pushing and measuring, he realized he had not moved the boulder even a quarter of an inch. The boulder was in exactly the same place.

The man was so disappointed, he was tired and his dream seemed dashed on the rock.
He sat on his porch and cried over the hundreds of hours he’d wasted.
As the sun was setting in the west, Jesus came and sat down next to the man as he cried. Jesus asked, “Why are you crying?”

The man replied, “Lord, you know how sick and weak I am, and this stupid dream gave me false hope and I’ve pushed with all my strength for the whole summer, and that rock is exactly where it was when I started.”

Jesus smiled and said to him, “I never told you to move the rock, I told you to push against the rock.” The man thought about it and replied, “Yes, that was the dream.”

Then Jesus told the man to step in front of his mirror and look at himself. So the man stepped in front of his mirror and when he looked he was amazed, because looking back at him was a strong, healthy man. He started thinking of how well he’d felt for several months and the strength that he had built by pushing on the rock. And, finally, the man realized: God’s plan was not for the rock, but for himself.

God’s plan includes each of us. The storms, the trials, the heartaches, the disappointments, are all part of the process. God is stretching us, growing us and building us into his kingdom.

Ask yourself where God is challenging you. In what part of your life does your cross lie? Is there something that you can or should be doing to build God’s kingdom in this parish. Can your prayers, your time, your money, your presence alongside the faithful of this community be part of that challenge?

We do not deserve to be given the opportunity that God extends to us, but the Kingdom of heaven has been opened to us through a cross: the sacrifice of Christ. To receive this free gift, all we have to do is respond, and I think you have a glimpse now of what that response needs to be.

Amen.