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Take Up Your Cross

Shame. It is hard to explain the shame of the cross in any way that touches our modern culture. We are not a people that feel shame in general. 

In Jesus’s time, anyone associated with someone who was crucified would be humiliated. The cross was the perfect and complete symbol of shame.

Imagine if someone told a child on the playground that his father was a terrorist in Guantanamo.  That is about as close as we could come to feeling what even his most distant disciples would feel in an honor and shame culture. 

The cross was a profoundly humiliating symbol, especially in an occupied country. It was Rome’s sign of triumph.

So when Jesus tells his disciples that they must “take up their cross and follow him,” how must they have taken it? 

But I have learned from reading about samurai culture in the last year or so that, in fact, humiliating yourself internally was a source of great strength.  It is comparable to a tree putting down great roots before a storm.

When we let go of our pride, our false self, and the things outside of ourselves that we take pride in, we can put down roots of self in the deep earth of Christ.

When you take away every source of pride, you can have joy without fearing it being taken away. You can put no stock in the things of this world and store up treasures in heaven because you do not need to build up a false self in order to feed an ego.

It is one of the most basic and difficult parts of the spiritual journey.  I am always puzzled why the readings of Lent put it so early in the trip toward Easter except that we should be reminded that we cannot take pride with us to Golgotha. 

Imagine if you had no pride to protect, and you just told the truth. “Let your yes be yes and your no be no.” Imagine how generous with your self, your time, your gifts, your life you could be if you had nothing to protect.

As we turn to get behind Jesus this week and set our minds on God’s things, let us bow deeply together. 

This is difficult, and that is a shame, because there is such freedom in taking up the cross.