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Take Up Your Cross
Victoria Kempf, Soutwest Florida

Philosopher, naturalist, theologian Annie Dillard writes of a childhood experience of finding a cocoon and putting it in a jar. She watched and waited as nature took its course and cocoon revealed chrysalis and then butterfly.

She vividly recalls the day she took the jar outside to release the beautiful butterfly within. She opened the jar and out it walked. But the jar had been too small. The butterfly's wings had not been able to expand enough in the jar. When let out, all it could do was walk down her driveway. Crippled. Unable to fly.

Peter's view of the Messiah was too small to include the larger reality of Jesus. Peter saw Jesus as a great messiah who would free Israel from the tyranny of Rome. He had no place in his understanding for a Messiah who must undergo great suffering, and be rejected, and be killed.

When Jesus tried to open Peter's mind to this concept of a messiah, Peter began to rebuke Jesus, to tell him off. To tell him "that's no way to be a messiah." How do you expect to get anywhere like that? You'll never get followers that way. A dead messiah. Sure.

Jesus told Peter that he was looking at things with too-human eyes, and not with the eyes of the divine. He was limiting his reality, his jar was too small, to include a God who would allow such suffering of a chosen messiah.

Then Jesus went on to insist that his followers give up all such human thinking, such limiting of the possibilities of God, to embrace their crosses, if you will, and to give up a life which holds on to small thinking.

Small human thinking is that which sees self alone as more important than the purposes of God. That sees one's own grasping at life as more valuable that the life which God could bestow, in God's own way.

For what does it profit a person to gain the whole world, and forfeit his or her life.

Mythical King Midas had the golden touch. And he could add to his wealth by turning to Gold anything he touched .... And so he became very wealthy. But when he accidentally touched his little daughter, he lost the one he valued most in all the world. And the soul went out of him.

Alcoholics Anonymous has an expression: "Let go and let God. " What does it mean to abandon the fearful demands of self and give space for God?

What does it mean to die to self in order that life may be renewed?

We know what it is like to try to save our life. We try to survive. We work for financial security; we try to stay in control of everything in our life. What does it mean to take up the cross of one's own mortality and live boldly in the presence of a loving God?

For some people it might mean coming to terms with, and accepting, even befriending the ultimate reality of their own deaths.

We do everything in our power to keep ourselves going, diet, exercise, caution, And should that fail us, we repair and refurbish and even replace body parts

We hold out until the last with treatments and procedures which pain and humiliate: depleting resources; devaluing human dignity; leaving us grasping for something which cannot be.

We hold on to life. Unaware that our concept of Life itself Is housed in too-small a glass jar.

For others, taking up the cross of one's own mortality and living boldly in the presence of a loving God might mean coming to terms with limitations, handicaps, difficult life circumstances which have heretofore caused resentment, anger or depression. It might mean offering all that to God, knowing that Life, lived in and for God's purposes and on God's terms may well be something different, and more glorious than our own small-jar definition.

For others taking up the cross of one's own mortality and living boldly in the presence of a loving God might mean being willing to change. To grow. To agree to experience the life God would offer at whatever the price. Nailing such things as fear, self-doubt, and excessive caution to the cross. Knowing that the Life Jesus requires of us is simply our all. Our best. Our talents. Our simple offerings. Our self. Jesus asks for us to let go. To stop grasping to hold on to life, so we can be given the life of God.

Jesus asks us to let go. To stop seeing life from inside a small jar, so we can be given wings truly to fly.

Jesus asks us to follow, giving up whatever excuses we may have giving up whatever fears may keep us trapped under glass. Jesus asks us to take up the cross so we may be given the life God holds in loving arms on the other side of the cross.

That resurrected life of one who knows by experience the words of St. Paul, "that neither death; nor life; nor angels; nor rulers; nor things present, nor things to come; nor powers; nor height; nor depth; nor anything else in all creation; will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.