From the Rev. Spencer Brown

Are we really willing to take up the cross, knowing we are going to suffer?

There is so much before us in the news, in our city, state, country, and world. Hearts are broken, joyful announcements made, and we respond in our own ways. I have found myself continually heartbroken at times and caught in fits of uncontainable joy in other times. It’s overwhelming.

Words are thrown as spears, piercing hearts and wounding the Body of Christ. People vie for power and domination as we humans, fallible and naive as we are think we know best. We believe we alone have the power to correct that which is wrong in our society. Whether it is in politics, neighborhoods, or any realm of the community, we believe we know best. 

In our Gospel lesson this Sunday, we hear that famous phrase Jesus says to Peter, “Get thee behind me, Satan!” We’ve all said it in jest, or at least have heard it said at some point. It’s a great phrase. When taken at face value, it seems as though Jesus rebukes Peter as his enemy. It’s as though Jesus pushes Peter away for disbelief, pushing him away so as not to trip in the mission God has set for him. 

As always with scripture, it’s more complicated. Peter wants to protect Jesus and keep the status quo. Peter’s desire is the desire we all have to be comfortable and not disturb what we’ve already got going. Jesus reminds Peter in his rebuke that it is Christ’s place, not Peter’s, to risk everything for the freedom and liberation of the world. Jesus knew he would die, suffering on the cross. Peter’s place was not that of Christ, but to continue following him and taking risks to bring the Good News to the world. 

This time of rollercoaster emotions has cast many of us into a place of empathy fatigue. It’s become too difficult to witness yet another tragedy or disaster. It’s even more difficult to gather ourselves and figure out what we can do. Maybe our place is to pick up the cross. This isn’t an act of piety to be taken on alone. This is a calling of the whole community. 

The Cathedral of St. John is a community dispersed and never alone. We risk every day to connect and be with one another through compassionately distanced meals and coffee meetings, through zoom meetings and other live-streamed services. 

Now comes the part where we’re told what we can do, even in the midst of the news full of broken hearts and spurts of joy. We take up the cross. We humble ourselves as disciples of the one who risked more than we can imagine, and we journey forward together. Even dispersed, we are able to flourish in community. We take up the cross and risk our comfort to seek justice, equity, and peace. 

We are ready to take up the cross, for we know the radical love of Christ Jesus goes before us. We go into the world (compassionately distanced and in masks) ready to see where we are able to act, to learn more about ourselves and the world around us, and where we are able to be present in the witness of those who are not like us. Christ risked everything for the liberation of the world, even unto death. A little discomfort, questioning the status quo, and opening our eyes to see where we are able to help doesn’t seem like something heroic. 

So we strive to be like Peter, reminded that we are but disciples and follow one who risked more than we imagine. We pick up our cross and follow Christ together. Thanks be to God.