This homily was delivered to the OCF group at USM after Vespers on 2-7-08

Taking up our Cross

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen. Christ is in our midst! He is and shall be! Last time we were together here at USM we began talking about the name of this Orthodox Christian Fellowship—Holy Cross. And we spoke some about how Christians have always identified themselves with the Cross of Christ. And especially the Cross as the ultimate revelation of God to man. That God loves His creation to the end, and He’s willing to do anything to offer us healing and salvation. After the Cross there’s nothing more for God to do or to say or to reveal. Everything for man’s salvation is done—“it is finished” Christ says on the Cross, and now the ball’s in our court (so to speak). We’re called to respond to Christ. So, if the Cross is the ultimate revelation of God to man, and if Christians are to do what our name implies—Christian means “little Christ.” So if we’re to model our lives after the revelation of Christ, this means that the command of Christ to “take up your Cross and follow Me” lies at the very heart of what it means to be a Christian. Our bearing of our Crosses shows us to be sons of God, in the same way that the Cross of Christ revealed what it means to be God. Ultimately, (the final conclusion of all this will be) carrying our Cross means that we live the life that God has blessed us with—no complaints, no lies, no deceptions, no desire for something else, no running away, no denial. We accept who we are, how we are, where we are, we stand up and face the reality of our existence, no matter what that may be. And then we offer all of that to Christ in every minute of every day in every situation. Taking up our Crosses means that live the joy of Christ’s salvation every moment. We see that every situation we encounter was sent to us by God for some purpose, so we can receive it and take it up and live in it, and offer back to Christ. Because our total conviction as Christians is that God’s will for our lives is always in our best interest, whether we understand it or not. And so this means that basically everything in our life is part of our Cross. Everything is to be taken up and offered to Christ, and ultimately (if we’re to be Christians) our lives will be lives of offering. God offers Himself to mankind from the foundations of the world, most clearly and perfectly on the Cross. And our lives will mirror this, offering ourselves continually to Christ. So to take up our Cross we have look at our lives with a brutal honesty, see ourselves as w really are. And then we have to become completely convinced that we can’t take this up on our own. We need help. And we really know this from our own experience of life, we can’t deal with everything on our own, we need Christ’s help. The Apostles ask Christ, “how can anyone do all the things that You call us to do?” And Christ’s response is: you can’t, but you can do all things by My strength. If we try to live the Christian life on our own, we won’t make it. Because it can’t be done. We have to continually turn ourselves to Christ, and allow His strength to be made perfect in our weakness. So, our reflection this evening on “take up your Cross and follow Me” leaves us with a few ideas to carry away with us: Firstly, the Christian life centers on the Cross. God reveals Himself to us on the Cross. And in order to be what we’re created to be—to share in the very life of God by His grace—we also have to take up our Crosses and follow Christ. There’s no other way, that’s the Christian life. Second, once we’ve accepted that the Christian life is a life of the Cross, we have to be honest with ourselves. We have to look at ourselves, our lives, our surroundings, everything about us has to be seen in the light of Christ. No excuses or tangents—to be in Christ we have to be whole, and that requires that we come to grips with who we really are. And finally, once we’re convinced to take up our Cross, and once we begin to look at ourselves with this brutal honesty, we have to admit that we can’t do this. We need help. And then we come to Christ, and to the Church—He left us His Church to be a place of healing, a place where we can receive the help we need to live the lives we’re called to live. And really, this taking up of our Cross, this bearing the burdens we have in our lives for Christ, this is the only way to live. Otherwise we’ll never live honestly. It’s only in the Cross that we’ll finally be fulfilled, that we’ll finally find joy and the peace that passes all understanding. In the Cross of Christ. Glory to Jesus Christ! Glory forever!