The invitation of the second week of Lent is the call to take up our crosses and follow Jesus. The question is where are we following him to?
This week’s Lenten readings remind us of the toughest part of responding to the call of Jesus. In the words of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, “When Jesus calls a person to follow him, he calls that person to come and die.” The paradox of the Gospel that is highlighted this week, though, is that it is in dying that we find life. (from Sacredise.com)
It is easy for us to focus on death during the season of Lent and to see the end of our cross carrying journey as the crucifixion. Not surprisingly at the moment, many worship leaders are focused on getting ready for Good Friday services and the Stations of the Cross and this tends to intensify this feeling. It seems to me that our thirsting after righteousness and hungering after justice have dissolved (if they ever existed at all). Most of us want to escape the desert before our time but that doesn’t mean that we want to hang on the cross either.
But the crucifixion really isn’t the goal of our cross carrying, it is the pathway. Our journey with Jesus at this season is, as Bonhoeffer recognized, a journey beyond death to new life. It is a journey that takes us deep into the loving heart of God. The dying we must do is to those things that separate us from God. Jesus travelled to the cross to break down the barriers that separated all of us from God. Our own individual journeys should break down our own personal barriers.
Journeying beyond death to resurrection was not easy for Jesus and it will not be easy for us either. That after all was one of the reasons the children of Israel wandered so long in the desert – they focused on the giants they needed to conquer rather than the abundance of the promised land. That is why we, like Jesus, also need constantly to remind ourselves of “the joy that is set before us”, the wonder of a transformed life that lives now and forever in God’s kingdom.