Scripture: Matthew 16:21-28
Jesus tells followers to pick up their cross and follow him
• One night a man had a dream... Jesus said I want you to be my disciple and the man agreed eagerly. Jesus gave man cross to carry, selected specifically for him. About 8 feet tall, and heavy and rough. The man's eagerness fades. After carrying it for a while, the man asked Jesus, "Can you do something about the splinters?" Jesus looked at the man with compassion and made it smooth. The man was pleased that Jesus was so kind to him.
Now it’s smooth, he carries it for a while, but it's still very heavy... Jesus, could you make my cross lighter? Jesus looked at the man with compassion and made it lighter. The man was pleased that Jesus was so kind to him.
Now it's smooth and light, but still about 8 feet tall. The man says, "Jesus, my cross keeps dragging on the ground, and it makes me hunch over so. Could you make it smaller?" Jesus looked at the man with compassion and made it smaller. The man was pleased that Jesus was so kind to him.
They come to a chasm, about 8 feet across. Jesus takes his own cross, still large and heavy and rough, and it perfectly spans the gap, allowing him to cross over safely, but the disciple’s cross, which had been exactly what he needed, has been rendered useless.
• Last week’s reading from Matthew gave us Peter confessing Jesus as the Christ, and this week Jesus points out that there is a cost to being the Christ and there’s a cost to being a disciple: Whoever would be a disciple must deny themselves and pick up cross and follow Jesus, and Jesus’ path is going to crucifixion.
• Being a disciple means trusting that God knows what is best for you, and submitting your will to his. It means being a student of Jesus, studying him and learning from him and seeking to be like him. Being a disciple means letting Jesus set your priorities – what you do with your time, your resources, your energy.
• In two weeks we’re going to receive several people into the membership of this church. Several folks will stand before you as we all confess our faith, and together we all commit to participate in the life of the church by our prayers, our presence, our gifts, our service, and our witness.
That means that as a disciple in this congregation, we’re asked to be in active and regular prayer for our church, for its members, for its leaders, for its ministries, for our vision.
We’re asked to show up, be present! Not only at worship services, but at events and meetings...We’re expected to participate in the life of the church financially. Methodists together with many Christian denominations teach and uphold that God asks his followers to tithe... The Church expects pastors to "teach and model generous Christian giving with a focus on tithing as God’s standard of giving." The ways in which we choose to earn, give, save, and spend money are really spiritual decisions. When our first decision is one of giving, we place a greater level of trust in God. We begin by saying, "Thank you God! All that we have received is a blessing from you." We acknowledge that we worship God and not money! Giving frees us from the bondage that money can have over our lives. Tithing encourages us to focus on God as the source of our strength, rather than our own achievements or financial assets. Tithing leads to spiritual growth.
As disciples, we’re expected to participate in the life of the church through our service, offering ourselves and our talents to the ministries and missions and maintenance of the church.
And as disciples we are representatives of God wherever we go...
• Hymn 358 I Am Thine O Lord