For Easter to Happen, Somebody Needed to Pick Up and Carry a Cross

oklahoma city bombing firefighter baby

Luke 24:1-12 NRSV

It is Easter Sunday! Resurrection morning has dawned. New life is being born! Something wonderful has been lost, but something magnificent is being gained.

However, on this Sunday of Sundays, I believe it is important for us to realize that before we can experience new life, before we can celebrate resurrection, before we can sing alleluias, before love can win, somebody needed to pick up and carry a cross.

And the sad thing is that there are very few of Jesus’ disciples who understand this. They do not understand it today, and they did not understand it 2,000 years ago.

Although Jesus continually taught that to gain our lives, we must be willing to lose our lives, that Easter could not happen without some self-denial, that resurrection could not come without some self-expenditure, that new life could not be born without some sacrifice, that love could not be won without some suffering, that the the light of Sunday morning could not  dawn without the darkness of Good Friday, when the time came for the disciples to follow Jesus all the way to the foot of the cross, most all of them very selfishly fled to save their lives.

One would betray Jesus. Another would deny that he even knew Jesus. Nearly all would desert him. In spite of Jesus’ continual call to pick up a cross and follow him, most of the disciples never got it.

However, there were a few disciples who did get it. There were a few who were willing to carry a cross. There were a few who chose to live selflessly and to love sacrificially. There were a few who faithfully followed Jesus all the way to Golgotha.

Although the intrinsic sexism of this world’s history has caused many in the church to overlook these faithful disciples, the good news is that all four Gospel writers did not.

In Luke 8 we read these words: Afterward [Jesus] journeyed from one town and village to another, preaching and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God. Accompanying him were the Twelve and some women…Mary, called Magdalene… Joanna…Susanna, and many others…” These women helped support Jesus and the twelve “out of their own means.”

And on Good Friday, when none of the male disciples could be found, Mark 15 reads: “There were also some women looking on…among whom were Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, Joses, and Salome.

In Matthew 27 we read: “Among them [gathered at the foot of the cross] was Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and the mother of the sons of Zebedee.

In John 19:25 we read where all the male disciples fled: “But standing by the cross of Jesus were His mother, and His mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.

There are many problems with Christianity today. However, I believe one of the biggest problems with our faith today, especially here in North America, is that we have too few Mary Magdalenes.

There are too few people who understand that authentic faith, true discipleship, always involves a cross. It always involves answering a call, taking a risk, denying oneself, going against the status quo, pushing the boundaries, stepping way outside one’s comfort zone.

A problem with the church today is there are too many Christians who believe they can sing “alleluias” on Easter Sunday without going through some suffering on Good Friday, who believe they can experience some new life without death to self, who believe they can somehow rise up from the waters of baptism without getting their hair wet, who believe they can serve Jesus without getting their hands dirty.

What this world desperately needs needs right now, and what the church needs more than anything today, are more disciples like Mary Magdalene. For Mary Magdalene understood that when Jesus called people to be his disciples, Jesus was always clear that there would be a cross involved.

I think this is the reason that Mary Magdalene is remembered today by Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. This is the reason she is mentioned by name by the gospel writers more than any other apostle. And this is the reason that today, on this Easter Sunday morning, Christians all over the world will hear her name mentioned as they gather to worship.

Some will hear her name as Mark 15 is read: “Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses were looking on to see where Jesus was laid.”

Some will hear her name as Matthew 28 is read: “Now after the Sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to look at the grave.”

Some will hear it as Mark 16 is read: “When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, bought spices, so that they might come and anoint Him.”

And others will hear it as John 20 is read: “Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came early to the tomb, while it was still dark, and saw the stone already taken away from the tomb.”

Just as Mary Magdalene had given what she had to support Jesus’ life, Mary was still doing all she could for Jesus in death.

And because she always selflessly pouring herself out, because she kept giving, kept sacrificing, kept risking, serving, bending, expending, anointing, because she was the most faithful of all of the disciples, because she not only sacrificially followed Jesus all the way to the cross, but courageously followed him all the way to the grave, because she followed him to the very end, she was the first person on earth to see the risen Lord.

Mark 16:9 reads: “Now after He had risen early on the first day of the week, He first appeared to Mary Magdalene…”

And in John 20:18 we read where it was Mary Magdalene who first proclaimed the good news of Easter, speaking five simple words that changed the world forever: “Mary Magdalene came, announcing to the disciples, ‘I have seen the Lord.’”  Not only was she the first person to see the Lord, she was the first person to proclaim the world-changing, earth-shaking, life-saving good news of Easter to the world!

Mary Magdalene was the very first to preach the glorious good news of resurrection on Easter Sunday, because she stayed with Jesus until the very last in his suffering and death of Good Friday. Easter happened for Mary because she had answered a call to follow Jesus, and she followed Jesus all the way.

Observing Good Friday this year was a surreal experience for many Americans, as it fell on April 19, the day of the terrorist bombing in Oklahoma City.

The story of one survivor, Terri Talley, exemplifies the suffering experienced by our nation, as well as how new life was raised out of the ashes through those who were willing to pick up and carry a cross.

Employed by the Federal Employee’s Credit Union on the third floor of the Murrah Federal Building, that morning was extremely busy for Terri. She had just returned to work after spending several days away, and a stack of paperwork waited for her.

Catching up on work, Terri took a moment that morning to chat with her good friend and coworker Sonja Sanders. “For her, it was a big day. She had just been promoted into management,” states Terri, who is certain she was the last person to have spoken with her friend.

What seemed like just moments afterward, everything changed. At 9:02 am, thousands of pounds of explosives, assembled in the back of a Ryder moving truck parked in front of her office building, exploded.

Terri recounts: “I fell from the third floor to somewhere around the basement level. It was really really fast. It was so fast that I didn’t really know what had happened. The suction pulled me down so quickly.”

Surrounded by noise Terri says, “When I came to the first time, I thought: ‘This is a really bad dream. I will just go to sleep and when I wake up everything will be okay.’ But when I came to [again], everything wasn’t okay. I thought that I must have been in a really bad wreck, and I must be [pinned in the wreckage], because I couldn’t see anything. I couldn’t move. I couldn’t even scream for help. I would try, but I was really squished. And I thought to myself: ‘I hope someone finds me.’”

Terri was found by a firefighter who almost overlooked her. [Like being sealed in a tomb] she was completely encased in concrete and granite. Terri says: “There was just a little hole and a little piece of me was showing. He touched me and … started screaming: ‘Hey! I have a live one here, and I need some help!'”

After much hard work, Terri was freed and rushed to a nearby hospital, where her injuries were identified: temporary blindness, a concussion, temporary amnesia, a cracked first vertebra in her neck, a broken right ankle, skin damage on her foot, and multiple abrasions. During her seven days in the hospital, and for weeks following, a sense of shock permeated her life.

However, today, she has this powerful message for the world:

I always tell [even] the littlest of kids: ‘Don’t think that there is nothing you can do, because kids would color pictures and send me notes. Those made me feel like people were really thinking about me. You can always do something, no matter what age you are.’[i]

This illustrates that to experience Easter Sunday, we have to have a Good Friday.

Before new life could be experienced, before resurrection could be celebrated, before “alleluias” could be sung, before love could be won, somebody needed to pick up and carry a cross.

-First Responders needed to run toward an explosion.
-Firefighters needed to go into a burning building.
-Doctors and nurses needed to give all that they had to give.
-Friends and family and church members needed to pray.
-And little children needed to pick up some crayons and color a picture.

To make Easter happen for someone–today, right here, right now–we can all do something, be something, risk something, sacrifice something, give something, create something.

We can all pick up and carry a cross.

We can feed someone who is hungry.

Visit someone who is lonely.

Love someone who is hurting.

Include someone who has been left out.

We can mentor someone who lives in a foster home.

Care for someone who is sick.

Forgive someone who has made mistakes.

Believe someone who has been abused.

We can share grace with someone who faces discrimination.

Stand up for someone victimized by injustice.

Speak out for someone devalued by oppression.

We can stay close by and anoint someone who is dying.

Be a friend to someone who is grieving.

With the spirit of Mary Magdalene, let’s keep the faith, and let’s keep the faith going, keep it moving forward, all the way to the foot of the cross, through the betrayals, through the fear, through the denials, through the suffering, through the shame, all the way to the grave, even to a tomb that has been sealed by granite or concrete.

Let us keep doing whatever we can, with whatever we have, wherever we are, to love one another until the entire world is able to sing:

“Alleluia! Alleluia! I have seen the Lord!”

 

[i]https://www.nps.gov/okci/learn/historyculture/stories.htm

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Far from the Shallow Now

over your head

Luke 5:1-11 NRSV

Early one morning, Jesus is standing on a beach preaching to a large crowd of people. The crowd that had gathered, and were probably still gathering, is so great, Jesus felt like they were about to push him right into the lake.

As he is preaching, he sees two boats left on the beach by some fishermen who were washing their nets. He gets into the boat belonging to Simon, and asks Simon to anchor the boat a little way from the shore, where Jesus continues his sermon to the crowds from the boat.

Luke doesn’t record the words to Jesus’ sermon, but from his sermon in the very next chapter, we could probably take a good guess: “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are you who are hunger now, for you will be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh. Love everyone, even your enemies…” –a sermon of a abundant mercy, extravagant grace and miraculous love that can change the world.

After Jesus finishes his sermon, he suggests that he wants to do a little bit of fishing himself. He to says to Simon: “Let’s leave these shallow waters and let down the nets.”

Simon responds, “Master, with all due respect, I, along with my long-time business partners, James and John, have fished these waters all night long, and we haven’t caught a thing.  Yet, if it will make you happy, I will go out a little deeper and put down the nets.”

It is then that a miracle happens.

As soon as the nets hit the water, they catch so many fish that the nets begin to break. They quickly call out to James and John to get the other boat and offer them a hand.  And when they come, they fill the boats with so many fish that both boats begin to sink.

And as Simon takes in the overwhelming scene— nets breaking, boats sinking, fish everywhere, a scene of failure and scarcity transformed into triumph and abundance, a scene of what can happen when you leave the shallow for something deeper, what can be experienced when you obey the commands of Jesus—Simon is overwhelmed, and falling down at Jesus’ knees, he says: “Go away from me Lord, for I am a sinful man!” “Go away, get out of here!  Leave me alone!”

It was as if Simon suddenly realized that he had only thought that Jesus was finished with his sermon. Jesus is fishing, but he is still preaching. Jesus is still revealing God’s abundant mercy, extravagant grace and miraculous love. Believing he is underserving of God’s love, how unworthy he is of such abundance, Simon asks Jesus to go away.

But Jesus never goes away easily. “Simon, not only are you worthy to receive this miraculous love, you are worthy to share it with others, so do not be afraid; for you are no longer going to be catching fish, you are going to be catching people!”

“I am asking you, Simon, along with your business partners James and John, to leave your shallow, contained, little world to venture out with me into a deeper, revolutionary, larger reality. The truth is, Simon, I need you to go deeper. I need as many people as I can get to go deeper. The problems of the world are too great and your lives are too short to waste any time wading in the shallow. And the grace of God is too extravagant. The mercy of God is too abundant. The love of God is too boundless for you to keep it all to yourselves!

I need you to leave your shallow, safe world of spending all of your time making a living, meeting the needs of your immediate family, and I need you follow me into the deep, risky reality of sacrificing your time to make a difference in the lives of others, meeting the needs of the human family.

I need you to leave your shallow life that feeds you and your children, and accept a deeper life that feeds every child of God.

I need you to move beyond your shallow, narrow mission of mowing and watering your own lawn, and accept the deeper, wider mission of caring for the entire planet.

I need you to lose the apathy towards issues that do not concern you and your limited of circle of family and friends to possess a deep empathy towards all who experience injustice.

I need you to move beyond your shallow understanding of success. Simon, no matter what you have been taught, success is not defined by the amount of fish you catch, the size of your bank account or even how many children or grandchildren you have. Your success is not defined by the size of your budget or the number of people sitting in the pews of your synagogue. It is so much deeper than that!

Your success will be measured by how many people you helped to know the love of God.

I need you to go deeper, Simon. You too, James and John, and be my disciples and fish for people. Do the hard, messy, oftentimes frustrating work for meeting the needs of people, caring for people, loving people. I need you to move far from the shallow now to do the deep work of grace.

I believe the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. summed up what Jesus was trying to say to Simon, James and John, when he said: “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is: ‘What are you doing for others?'”

Now, here is what I believe is the real miracle in this story. It’s verse 11. After Jesus invited them to leave the shallow for something deeper, to leave catching fish for catching people we read: “When they had brought their boats to shore, they left everything and followed him.”

This is miraculous because when it came to accepting the extravagant grace and love of God revealed in the large catch of fish, Simon, seemed to have some difficulty: “Get out of here, Jesus! I am a sinful man!”

However, when it comes to following Jesus to a deeper life, to love others, to live selflessly and sacrificially, he, with James and John, leave everything and follow.

This seem even more miraculous when we consider it is the exact opposite of how most of us work. We seem have no problem accepting the grace of God. We have no issues receiving the love of God. But we prefer to keep it shallow. We prefer to keep it safe, keep it contained, keep it to ourselves.  We are reluctant to go deeper.

Because going deeper can be dangerous. Going deeper can be costly. Going deeper can be overwhelming. In the deep, fish will break your nets, and people will break your hearts.

Eddie Donavan from the Fort Smith Boys Home illustrated this when he spoke to our Kiwanis group this week. He said several people say they would like to help at the Boys Home, but when they come to the home and begin to interact with the boys, boys who have a plethora of needs, they immediately realize that they are in way over their heads.

So here is the real miracle:

Jesus says: “Simon, from now on, you will be catching people.”  And Simon drops everything and follows.

And the good news is, I am blessed to witness this very same miracle today. For you are also following this Jesus. Not only have you accepted the grace of Christ, but you are making an effort to share it with others. For you are here, with First Christian Church, part of a movement for wholeness in our fragmented world.

My friends, you are in deep.

Some might say that you are in over your head.

You are far from the shallow now.

You have gathered here this morning with a group of people who are called Disciples of Christ, disciples who have decided to go on a journey to share the abundant mercy, extravagant grace and miraculous love with all people. And we know this journey is not an easy one. This journey is not a comfortable one. And today, this journey is not a popular one. This journey is a risky, and it is costly.

You have decided to go on a journey with a church that has several members who are committed to the deep and difficult work of recovery through Alcohol Anonymous.

You are on a journey with other members who do the deep and oftentimes discouraging work with persons addicted to narcotics;

With others who do the deep and demanding work of leading a summer camp for troubled boys;

With others who do the deep and daunting work of with people who are homeless;

With others who do the deep and draining work of being Court Appointed Special Advocates for children in the court system;

And with others who do the deep and disturbing work with foster children.

You have decided to go on a journey with a church that is committed to following the deep, difficult and sometimes dangerous way of Jesus.

We know, we could just to Disciples Hall after worship and enjoy a shallow plate of spaghetti together. Enjoy what we call some good ol’ christian  fellowship. Share a laugh or two.

But we are going to go deeper than that.

We are going to listen Gary Udouj from the Adult Education Center and Heather Edwards from the Literary Council as they share opportunities for us to give of ourselves, sacrifice some of our time, to do some very deep work with people whose lives are literally hanging in the balance.

We know, we could just send checks to ministries that feed the hungry, but we are going deeper than that. We are going to work with organizations like Antioch Youth and Family, and movements like the Poor People’s Campaign, and we are going to work alongside our elected leaders to do the deep work of rooting out some of the causes of hunger and poverty and come up with solutions right here in Fort Smith.

Yes, my friends, today, you are in deep.

But I believe it was John Shedd once said: “A ship in harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for.”

We are on a ship with Jesus. He is the captain who has navigates our journey out of the harbor. And we are far from the shallow now.

Dangerous Dancing

Dance

2 Samuel 6:1-5; 12b-19 NRSV

Mark 6:14-29 NRSV

The first test that I took in seminary is called the Myers-Briggs test. It is a test that identifies your personality-type. After taking the test, I met with my professor who saidL “I have good news, and I have bad news. The good news is that you are an extrovert. You love people. And if you are ever going to be a pastor, then loving people certainly has some advantages. However, the bad news is that it also has some disadvantages. You love people, which means your probably want people to love you. And this is where extroverted preachers like yourself tend to get into trouble. You need to be careful as a preacher that you are preaching to please God and not just to please your congregation.”

That may be the primary reason that I have chosen to use a tool we call the Revised Common Lectionary. It is designed to help the preacher preach the entire Bible, and not just the parts of the Bible that might endear him or her to a congregation.

But I must admit, first thing, every Monday morning, I read the lectionary texts, hoping and praying that it might lead me to preach what we preachers like to call a “sugar-stick sermon,” something that will bring comfort rather than challenge, consolation rather than confrontation, something that will cause people to come up to me afterwards in the Narthex and say: “Thank you for that delightful sermon, pastor. We just love you!”

So, you can imagine my consternation this past Monday morning when I read the gospel lesson about the fate of our old friend John the Baptist, that eccentric character from the Advent season that gets us ready for Christmas every year, that one who prepared the way of the Lord by faithfully preaching the truth in the wilderness, that one who also preached truth to power by calling out the immorality of the King.

And what does he get for faithfully standing for the truth of the Word of God? He gets his head served up on a silver platter.

So, on Monday morning, I said to myself. “Ah man! Nobody wants to hear that!” I think I’ll preach from the Old Testament this week. Let’s see, it is from 2 Samuel, chapter 6.

After King David led a great army to return the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem from the Philistines, David and his army were so overcome with emotion that they engaged in festive dancing.

The scripture tells us that David danced before God “with all his might.” He danced before God with all that he had and with all that he was, as he was utterly and completely overcome by the joy of God.

Now, this is more like it! Here’s something that will preach! My sermon can be entitled: “Let’s Dance!” And the people will love it!

David danced, affirming the rule of God. David danced, consumed by the Word of God. David danced a dance of total self-surrender. David danced, holding nothing back. David danced giving all that he had and all that he was to God.

Oh, who is not going to love this! David’s dance is certainly better than the dance of Herodias in our gospel lesson this morning!

But then, just when I felt a happy sugar-stick sermon coming on, I read this: “And Michal despised David for it.”

Michal, David’s wife, looked out the window at David’s exuberant dancing in the street and despised him for it.

I like the congregational response that is printed in our order of service after the scripture lesson is read on Sunday mornings: “This is the Word of God for the people of God. Thanks be to God.” However, sometimes, I think we should add: “Whether we like it or not, this is the Word of God for the people of God. Thanks be to God.”

The truth is, whether we like it or not, the dance of the gospel is a dangerous dance. The dance of the gospel is a disturbing dance. The dance of the gospel is a dance that is despised by many. The active affirmation of the rule of God does not set well with the Michals and the Herods of the world. In fact, people are likely to lose their heads if they claim too much for the gospel.

The dance of prosperity preachers are much easier steps to follow. The message of false prophets who distort the gospel of Christ as nothing more than a little dose of “chicken soup for the soul” is much easier to swallow. If we just get ourselves right with the Lord, if we would just straighten up and pray right and live right, good health and great wealth will come our way. If we just accept Jesus as our Lord and our Savior, everything is going to be alright.

However, the dance of the gospel is radically different. The dance of the gospel contains steps to the beat of a different drum. If we get right with the Lord, if we pray right and live right, if we lose all inhibitions and all restraint, if we completely surrender ourselves to the rule of God, if we love others as Christ loves others, if we allow the Word of God to challenge us, confront us, consume us, to control us, then suffering is inevitable.

For the dance of the gospel is a dance of self-surrender to a very radical drum beat. It is a beat of sacrifice. It is a beat of selflessness. It is a beat of self-expenditure. It is a beat of love and of grace.  And to world, as the Apostle Paul warned the Corinthians, if we let go and dance to this beat, we are certain to look pretty foolish.

We may look like a fool…

…when we offer friendship to someone who can not offer us anything in return.

…when we spend valuable time volunteering at the hospital, serving lunch in a soup kitchen, visiting someone in prison or working in a homeless shelter.

…when we love our enemies, when we give the shirt off our backs to complete strangers.

…when we give sacrificially and consistently to a church that is always encouraging us to give even more.

…when we speak truth to those in power.

And we might look foolish anytime we love anyone with the self-expending love of Christ—whenever we love someone without inhibitions, without restraints, and without reservations.

I believe this is the dance of the gospel. It is a dance of immense joy, but also a dance of enormous suffering. For the Herods and Michals of the world despise this dance. And they will do everything in their power to stop this dance.

We have all heard their voices, echoes that discourage such dancing:  “Don’t get too close to him. Don’t give your heart to her. As human beings they will only let you down.”

“Don’t bother with church. The giving never ceases. The work never ends. The disappointments never stop.”

“Don’t love that man.  He has done absolutely nothing to deserve it.  And he will probably never be able to reciprocate. Don’t love that woman. She is poor and destitute. She is too needy. She will demand too much.”

The voices Michal and Herod say: “Don’t give yourself away to another. Loving like that is too risky. It leads to too much pain, heartache and grief.”

However, there is another voice.  A voice which was heard by David and by John the Baptist. It is a voice that says: “Dance!  Hold nothing back.  Give yourself away. Surrender yourself to beat of the heart of the gospel.  Love. Love honestly and deeply. Love courageously and graciously.  Lose yourself.  Empty yourself.  Pour yourself out.”

Will this love cause pain? It will cause enormous pain. But the joy of God which will consume you will be so immense the suffering will be well worth it. So, dance.

Garth Brooks once sang a song entitled “the dance.” There’s a line in that song that goes, “I could have missed the pain, but I would have had to have missed the dance.”

Loving others will inevitably bring pain.  However, never loving to avoid that pain is never really living.  There is no joy being a wallflower on the wall of life.

The Revised Common Lectionary has a gospel and a Hebrew lesson. It also has a Psalm.

The Psalm for this week is the 24thPsalm. As we avoid the dance of false prophets with steps that are easier to follow and join the dance of the gospel, even if it brings us pain, may we remember these hopeful words:

The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it, the world, and those who live in it; for he has founded it on the seas, and established it on the rivers. Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord? And who shall stand in his holy place?

Those who have clean hands and pure hearts, who do not lift up their souls to what is false… They will receive blessing from the Lord, and vindication from the God of their salvation.

So, let’s dance!  Let us go out and dance in the streets of our world consumed and controlled by the Word of God, the radical beat of the gospel of Christ! Be warned, we might look like fools, people will despise us, and we will suffer for it. However, the blessings we receive from the Lord, our vindication from the God of our salvation, is well worth it.

Pastoral Prayer Inspired by Dietrich Bonheoffer

Dietrich BonhoefferDietrich Bonhoeffer did not have to help Jews escape Nazi Germany and flee to Switzerland.  After all, he was safe and sound in New York in the early 1940’s. He was free to stay in America and preach the gospel from the safety of a free church pulpit or teach New Testament in the peace and freedom of a university. But the gospel he preached compelled him to return to Germany and stand against Nazi aggression.

Before he was executed by the Nazis in 1945, he wrote the following words that I believe the American Church that is embedded in a narcissistic society needs to hear again and hear loudly:

Cheap grace is the preaching of….forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, communion without confession…  Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ living and incarnate. Costly grace is…the gospel which must be sought again and again. The gift which must be asked for, the door at which one must knock. Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ.  It is costly because it costs us our lives. It is grace because it gives us the only true life.

The following pastoral prayer was inspired by Bonhoeffer’s timeless words:

O good and gracious God, we come to this place this morning to recommit ourselves to being faithful disciples of Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior. However, if we are ever going to truly follow Jesus, we will first need to repent of our sins that are derived from our love with what your servant Dietrich Bonhoeffer called “cheap grace.”

We gather in this place Sunday after Sunday to hear preaching that will remind us that we are loved and forgiven; not to hear that we need to change our selfish ways.

We gather to remember the way we came up out of the waters of our baptism to symbolize life abundant and eternal; not to remember our immersion into the waters to symbolize death to self.

We come to gather around a table to receive the gift of Holy Communion; not to confess our sins and our shortcomings.

We come to this place to receive grace and love; not to be encouraged to share grace and love with others.

We come here to worship at the foot of the cross; not to pick it up and carry it ourselves.

We come here to worship Christ in the safety and comfort of this sanctuary; not fully realizing that the Christ is actually alive today, present  here, calling us, prodding us, pulling us to follow him out into a risky and uncomfortable world.

So, O God, forgive us of our love for “cheap grace.” Help us to truly repent, turn from our wicked ways and seek to live for a grace, in a grace, and by a grace that is worthy of your sacrificial love for us, even if it is “costly.”

May we come to this place to seek this grace Sunday after Sunday. May we keep asking, keep knocking at your door, keep giving our lives away to you, keep denying ourselves, and keep looking to you for the strength we need to pick up our crosses and follow our Lord and our Savior wherever he leads. Because we know that this grace, although it costs us our very lives, is the only way to true life, abundant and eternal. We pray this in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.