Summary: Jesus invites us to take up our cross and it sticks in our throat.

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15 Pentecost A Matthew 16:21-28 1 September 2002

Rev. Roger Haugen

Ammon Hennacy was a protester against the arms race in the United States during the 60’s. One cold winter day found him at a missile silo in South Dakota. There were very few people, a handful of protesters, two soldiers behind the fence, and a reporter from a small town newspaper. After about 20 minutes of bone-chilling cold, the reporter went over to Hennacy and shouted in the wind, “Do you really think you’re going to change the government by being out here?” Hennacy looked at him and said, “My friend, I’m out here so that the government doesn’t change me.”

Why would anyone want to be a Christian? We are told to take up our cross and follow Jesus. We are told that to want to save our life will mean we lose it. Look back in history and we find those who took Jesus seriously found life tough. It was not popular to protest the war in Vietnam but history has proved that the protesters were right. Those who fought for civil rights in the U.S. met with threats and violence, often ending up in prison. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, in Germany was executed for protesting against Hitler, and the Lutheran church of his day abandoned Bonhoeffer. The chance are, to take up your cross and follow Jesus, will cause pain and death, and we won’t know if we were right until much later.

The early church, as described in Acts, was faced with persecution and death, yet they continued to grow. People in El Salvador, continued to baptize their children through the 80’s even though doing so was putting the lines of a rifle scope on their foreheads. Bishop Romero continued to preach for justice even though it resulted in him taking a bullet as he celebrated Communion.

Take up your cross and follow?

Presently in parts of the world, to be identified as Christian is to court persecution and death. Only recently the heads of a number of Christian preachers in the Phillipines were found along side roads as a warning to others. Yet others continue to preach. Today, to be identified as a church in China is to bring the wrath of the government down on all those who attend. Yet, Lutheran pastors from Hong Kong continue to travel into mainland China to worship in house churches. Take up your cross and follow?

Society as we know it, doesn’t fit well with Jesus’ words today. Marva Dawn, a writer who teaches in Vancouver, identifies six values of our culture. (Is it a Lost Cause? Having the Heart of God for the Church’s Children)

1.Pain free living. A pursuit of happiness and comfort where we rely on technology to make our live easy and pain free. A drug for every pain and diet pills so we do not need to eat healthy.

2. Materialism. Where we value stuff rather than people. Life is a race to see who can gather the most ‘stuff’. The voids we feel in life can be filled with the right ‘stuff’.

3. Escapism. We are driven to amuse ourselves to escape daily stress and conflict. The day becomes so scheduled that we have no time to consider what is eating away at us.

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