Sweetwater Presbyterian

Small in size, Big in Faith and Love

Take Up Your Cross


Jesus is on his way to Jerusalem. Jesus knows that when he gets there he will be arrested, beaten and crucified - and as was the custom for all condemned criminals Jesus knew that he would have to carry his own cross up to Golgotha where he would be nailed to it and there he would die. He knew that and he had been trying to prepare his disciples for this to happen. He kept trying to tell them that he was going to die when he got to Jerusalem and they just wouldn’t believe him.
So on this particular trip to Jerusalem Jesus tells them again about this trip, how it will be the last one, how he will go to his death in Jerusalem and once again the disciples say NO! this cannot happen.
Finally Jesus just stops, and pretty much says to his disciples, “Look, you all have been following me for almost 3 years. You have heard what I have taught. You have heard what I have said to you. And here is is, listen! Now, you have to make a decision. If you really want to follow me; if you really want to be my disciples this is what you have to do. You have to deny yourself, you have to carry your cross, and then you have to follow me. If you want eternal life, that is the ticket - deny yourself, take up your cross and follow me.”
On this Stewardship Sunday, that is what we need to think about. We see Stewardship in terms of giving to the church. You have heard what the church wants from you - financial resources so the church can exist - practical things like keeping the lights on and the heat running on a cold winter morning. Necessary things that keep as existing as a church - music and pastoral leadership. Necessary things like opportunities to learn through Sunday School and Bible Study and other times when we gather to learn.
And we may think of Fellowship things as being frivolous, but according to scripture gathering together to just enjoy one another’s company is vital to understanding our role as the people called to be Sweetwater Presbyterian.
And most important - stewardship is being the arms and legs of Jesus living out in the community what Jesus lived out for us when he fed the hungry and healed the sick and cast out demons and cared for whomever would come by and ask him for help. Without mission we cannot be a church. So as much as we hate to talk about money, money is essential to being a church. Even Jesus and his disciples had money in order to operate - Judas was the treasurer and carried the money bag used for their expenses.
But real stewardship is so much more than money. Stewardship is hearing what Jesus tells us is required of us as his disciples. And what did he tell us - in order to be his disciple, in order to be the church, we have to first deny ourselves. What that means is realizing that if you are a disciple of Jesus your life is no longer about you. Hear that again, you life is no longer about you. The focus of you life is no longer what make you happy, or pleases you, or about your dreams and desires. You life is about being the person Jesus knows you can be. A person who doesn’t live for themselves but submits to the plan and purpose God has for your life.
Does that mean you will never have fun or get to do things you enjoy or be able to buy that new iPhone you really want? No. Denying yourself doesn’t mean you have to sell everything you have and go to live in a monastery and do good deeds and pray all day.
Denying yourself just means you have to change your perspective on what life is all about - and it isn’t about me - its about Jesus.
Deny yourself, Jesus says, and then he says, Take up Your Cross. Take up YOUR cross. Jesus carried his cross and now he says to us - Your Turn. I carried mine and now I am challenging you to take up yours.
So what does that mean? It means that each of us is given responsibilities; each of us is given gifts; each of us have a special place in God’s plan and we need to pick up that responsibility and do it. Almost sounds simple. Here, God says, here is your talent. Now go use it like I ask you to. Don’t bury it under a rock. Don’t use it exclusively for yourself. Use it for God’s work. Use if for the work of the church.
So this is what it takes to do that. You need to spend some time with God and figure this out. Sometimes you know what you are good at and sometimes you don’t. And all our talents are not visible talents like singing or speaking or playing an instrument. Some our talents are being able to organize or cut our materials for Sunday School or cleaning or taking someone who is lonely out to lunch or fixing a meal for someone who is hungry or praying for those who you know need prayer.
God asked Jesus to take up the cross and die and he did it. God asks you to take up your cross and do what he asks you - even if it is hard cause he surely isn’t going to be as hard as it was for Jesus.
Jesus says, Deny yourself, take up your cross and follow me. Follow Jesus. What does it take to follow Jesus? First it takes learning what he teaches - what he really teaches not just what other tell you he taught - what did he teach - feed the hungry, give to the poor, love your enemies, if you have 2 coats give one to someone who needs it, love God with all your hear, soul and mind, love your neighbor as yourself.
Stewardship. Stewardship is hearing the call of Jesus to Deny yourself, take up your cross and to follow him. To allow God to so transform you that true stewardship becomes easy because it is who you are.
Remember - to be here, to be a child of God, to live under the grace of Jesus, to have the promise and assurance of eternal life costs you nothing.
But to live with the peace of Christ filling you; to live with the joy of God in your life - will cost you everything you are.

As you think about that pledge card; as you think about that Time and Talent sheet remember Jesus’ words - If you want to come with me, deny yourself, take up your cross and follow me. For anyone who wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for Jesus, will live a true and joyful life.