The Sacramental Life: Taking Up the Cross
September 26, 2012
I’ve been asked in the past if I would post some of my sermon notes online. Since I’ve started a sermon series on The Sacramental Life a few weeks ago, I thought I’d post my notes so you might have an idea of what a preacher’s notes look like. I’m trying to edit them as best as possible but I still want to give you a bit of a look at what I’m viewing when I’m preaching.
And that’s what I want us to do today. Re-Image how we view the sacramental life. For some this is a new term, for others it’s loaded with baggage, and today I want all of us to see it in a fresh way.
Let’s view Self-Denial and Cross Carrying as a sacrament. Even the Psalmist understands this idea. Don’t we see hints of carrying a cross in these words from Psalm 116 “I was brought very low and [the Lord] helped me…for [the Lord] has rescued my life from death, my eyes from tears, and my feet from stumbling“?
Jesus’ followers must be willing to embrace hardship, shame, and suffering with Him. He has suffered and pain is a part of life so we walk with One who knows exactly what it’s all about. In fact, we find especially present in these moments.
The cross is an instrument of murder/death yet it is also a symbol of resurrection. In the cross there is death AND life. The reason we cannot live into the sacramental life/divine presence of Christ is because we’re too busy dying instead of living.
But what do they look like? And where do they occur?
For Jesus’ early followers these acts often began in the big places (family, society) but, we find, in our culture it can become the smallest of places.
Self-denial in Worship.
I was speaking with another minister recently and he mentioned it would be interesting if someone drove by a church early on a Sunday morning and it was packed. He then proceeded to say the person driving buy wouldn’t know what was happening because it couldn’t be a funeral or a wedding, right? No one has funerals or weddings early on a Sunday morning, do they?
Then it hit me. Every time God’s people gather together to worship it should be both a funeral and a wedding! When we gather together we should lay all of our sin, faults, and frustrations on this instrument of death and just let them die. Then, after a few moments, we would return to the cross and look at it in a new light. Now we look at it and realize it’s empty. The Bridegroom has come down off the cross and has destroyed sin, death, and the grave! It’s time to celebrate a wedding of ourselves as God’s people and worship in happiness and joy.
Self-denial in the present moment.
Be attentive. We have to learn to shut up and LISTEN!
This sacramental act was brought home to me recently when I was in Portland. I was walking down the street late at night and saw a bedraggled lady begging on the street corner. I pulled some money out of my wallet and walked on my way. She tried to call out, “Thank you” but I just kept walking. I’d done my Christian duty, right? No, I had not. I’d sinned because I wasn’t being attentive.
This was brought to life to me the next day when I saw Jesus. Where did I see Jesus? I saw him a few streets over from where I’d been the previous night. He was bending over talking to yet another street person. Oh, this didn’t look like the Jesus we’re familiar with in all of our paintings and images. Jesus looked like a young man in his late twenties or early thirties wearing shorts and talking to a homeless person. I never saw this Jesus give the man any money but I did see this Jesus giving the man his time.
I stood back at a distance and watched Jesus at work. When he was finished talking with this man, they shook hands and I heard the man say to this Jesus, “Thank you” and this Jesus smiled at him, acknowledged him as a human being, and walked slowly away. This was the sacrament in action.
I’m beginning to realize this particular Jesus practiced self-denial and knew what it meant to see the cross as a life giving experience. I’m realizing that walking in suffering and self-denial are moments of divine grace for Jesus walks with us and in us during those times. This is why they are sacramental acts.
How will we enter into these sacramental acts in our life? Where will we bring the cross as the death/life instrument which it is? Where will we deny ourselves to allow this Jesus to walk in and through us?
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