Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Taking Up His Cross

Dear Friend,

On a Sunday morning in 1958 I was standing at the back of St. Thomas Episcopal Church. My heart was pounding wildly as I waited for the organist to begin the processional hymn which would be my cue to start slowly down the aisle. I was holding the cross and still remember well the weight and feel of the polished walnut pole and the heavy brass cross so shiny and bright that it seemed to cast a light of its own. Father Barnes stood behind me and behind him waited two older acolytes carrying the flags. Father Spicer-Smith, the candle bearers and the members of the adult choir made up the rest of the procession.  

This was my first service as an acolyte and I remember I was filled with a heady mixture of awe and joy along with some serious self-doubts. What a privilege to be allowed to serve God! And, Father Barnes had even trusted me to carry the cross my first day! And boy was I scared! What if half way down the aisle while carrying the cross, I tripped and fell! What if I turned the wrong way or forgot what to do during the service at the altar! After all, I was only nine years old and the youngest acolyte that my church had ever had. I was only a kid and the biggest responsibility I’d been trusted with was to clean my room! But Father Barnes had convinced both me and my parents of his faith that I could do the job. After 500+ services, dozens of weddings/funerals and after serving six ministers and two bishops, I had never tripped and never fallen. I had never turned the wrong way and I had never forgotten what to do. Even though as a youngster my faith in God was shaky, His gracious love was with me every time I took His cross in my hands and He never let me down!

Come, take up the cross, and follow Me.  Mark 10:21

Today my faith in God is no longer shaky and I certainly have wisdom and understanding in a greater degree than I had as a child. Yet still today I experience that same child-like awe and joy at serving the Lord on Sunday. I no longer take up a processional cross, but around my clerical collar I put on a heavy bronze cross that I wear over my heart. A cross that reminds me of God’s presence in my life. It bangs on my heart when I walk reminding me that as I stumble through life, God has never forsaken me. I have done everything to earn His wrath and done nothing to deserve or earn His grace and mercy. And looking back I see so clearly now His hand of grace upon me from when I first wrapped my hands around His cross as a small boy. 

The cross is the most powerful testimony of God’s love for us. Through the cross we have been restored and redeemed. When we pick up our own cross to bear and His cross, we find they are one and the same. The sins we carry on our own cross have already been nailed to His. Jesus said, “..come, take up the cross and follow Me.” When you take up His cross and carry out His will, your walk will be steady and true. His strong right hand will keep you from turning the wrong way and when you do stumble, He will keep you from falling. When you take up the cross of Jesus, He will never let you down.  AMEN?