Sermon for the Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost
9.13.15 (Sunday of a Baptism)
Calvary - St. George's Church, Manhattan
What does Jesus mean when he tells us to "take up our cross?"
Over the millennia, this phrase has been interpreted in a variety of ways. Mostly in good, helpful ways, but, on occasion, it’s been used to for ill.
I’m going to begin with two popular misinterpretations of this phrase, before taking a stab at what Jesus is really getting at.
So, two things he doesn't mean.
First, when he says ‘take up your cross’, Jesus does not mean: submit to oppression. Women and people of color, in particular, who have suffered abuse, have often had Jesus’s words used to keep them suffering... Does your husband mistreat you? Does your slaveowner beat you? Put up with it, so the false interpretation goes, for this is your cross to bear…
Too often ‘take up your cross’ is taken to mean, tell those who are suffering injustice to suffer it a little more. This is not what Jesus was talking about.
The second misinterpretation of this phrase is the way we often use it in everyday conversation. Sorry everybody, but ‘my cross to bear' is not a difficult spouse or a nagging in-law... Unfortunately, it isn’t even something as awful as crushing student loans.