Is Your Cross Big Enough?

subversive crossLent 2B: Is Your Cross Big Enough?

Mark 8:31-38

March 1, 2015

Jesus says, “Take up your cross and follow me.”

Twenty-five years ago in El Salvador

the military took a cross into custody….

They had arrived at Resurrection Lutheran church in San Salvador

looking for Bishop Medardo Gomez.

He and others in the Lutheran church of El Salvador

were declared subversives for doing things

such as running a refugee camp for those fleeing the civil war,

and teaching the poor radical notions about justice and human rights.

Bishop Gomez wasn’t there when they arrived that day.

But the military didn’t leave empty handed.

They arrested 15 people…and they also took into custody a cross…

It was a simple wooden cross that had been painted white.

Presumably the cross was to be used as evidence against leaders of the Lutheran church.

At a worship service a few weeks earlier,

members of the congregation had come forward as individuals and pairs

to write on the cross with magic marker.

In this service of reconciliation,

they wrote directly on the cross sins of their country and people.

They sought healing through the cross

and they wrote things like:

the persecution of the church;


discrimination against women;

ambition for power;


and violence.[i]

The cross was taken into custody,

and it became known as the “subversive cross.”

Even now after its return,

it is a powerful symbol for Lutheran Salvadorans of courage and hope.

That is the paradox of the cross:

It is an instrument of death;

And yet it also brings us hope of resurrection.

The wood of the cross

becomes a tree of life.

Jesus says, “Take up your cross and follow me.”

One of my favorite spiritual writers,

Sister Joan Chittister writes that our challenge in life

is to make the crosses we bear meaningful ones.

She writes,

“Life’s real problem does not lie in … a cross,

it lies in choosing a cross that is too small to justify being nailed to in the first place.

When we spend our energies on small things,

when we spend our lives chasing dreams that do not satisfy,

we suffer (just) as much to lose them, but for far too small a reason.

Jesus says, “Take up your cross and follow me.”

Joan adds, our prayer might be:

God help me “choose carefully those things to which I give my heart

and on which I spend my life

so that having to suffer for them, the suffering is … meaningful.”[ii]

We spend so much energy on the small stuff  –

petty disagreements and annoyances;

worries about money and time.

If those are the things which make us suffer the most,

maybe we aren’t choosing a cross that is big enough.

Choose carefully.

This taking up our cross…,

This willingness to suffer for a purpose,

for the sake of others,

brings life – meaningful life.

In our gospel reading Peter says it isn’t worth it,

and Jesus rebukes him.

“Get behind me Satan,” he says.

God is in the cross.

A writer blogging about the Oscars last week[iii] noted the irony

that the song which everyone was talking about,

the song which was so powerful everyone was crying about,

the song talking about struggle and sacrifice and pain

in the midst of the Selma march across the Edmund Pettus bridge

was called “Glory.”

Glory means beauty, victory, splendor, praise.

It seemed a very un-glorious time.

But once again, that is the paradox of the cross.

In writing that song, John Legend and Common joined the tradition of countless other African Americans

who sang songs of the struggle against slavery, the struggle against racism

as songs of glory.

We know where glory is found.

We know what made us cry Sunday night…

We cried because we saw God.

Sunday night we saw God’s glory not as much in the images of Oscar winners

in their dresses and tuxedos

holding golden statues

whose greatest risk that night was whether or not they would have a garment malfunction.…

Sunday night we saw God’s glory in the images of ordinary men and women

in their Sunday best walking side by side over a bridge

risking being beaten, arrested, and even killed to be there.

We saw God’s glory in the images of pain and sacrifice,

struggle and strength.

In the cross we glory.

In San Salvador and Selma,

in this this instrument of death, we see the tree of life.

Jesus says, “Take up your cross and follow me.”

Is our cross big enough?

For what or for whom are you suffering?

Choose wisely.



[ii] Joan Chittister, Eleventh Station in “The Way of the Cross: Gateway to Resurrection,” 1999.



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