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The Question Lingers ©

The question lingers from a sermon delivered by Dean David Watson.

“When people look at your Facebook page or your Twitter profile, do they know you are a Christian? Okay, you say, I have repeatedly posted Bible verses with colorful, flowery backgrounds on my page, along with memes from my favorite preachers and theologians. Of course, they know I’m a Christian.

So, here’s another question, and probably a better one: If someone were to look at your Facebook or Twitter page, is it likely that that person would want to follow your God? I don’t mean you’re necessarily going to lead people to Christ through your social media posts, but in your public persona, are you an ambassador of Christ?  Or do you simply set up Christian window dressing in front of the same rancor, snark, and bitterness that has come to characterize our discourse in Western culture? (From David Watson, “Make Christianity Weird Again: A Sermon”)

I lift this quote with my eyes turned toward the cross looming in the distance. In a handful of days, we will enter the week we call Holy. Much has been written about how tempting it is to bounce from the triumphal entry of Jesus into the Jerusalem to the crowing glory of Easter Sunday. The Christian difference, the question that lingers, is of much deeper meaning: Am I willing to walk the way of the cross?

The German martyr Dietrich Bonhoeffer famously wrote in The Cost of DiscipleshipWhen Christ calls a man [person], he bids him [or her] come and die.” In doing so this great 20th Century Christian was echoing Jesus’ own admonition. “Jesus said to everyone, “All who want to come after me must say no to themselves, take up their cross daily, and follow me. All who want to save their lives will lose them. But all who lose their lives because of me will save them.” (Luke 9:23-24)

I must confess a love/hate relationship with the call to follow Christ. In one way, I love the words. They stir in me a faithfulness that bids me to be more than I am. The Lenten challenge to follow Christ to the cross is not just heroic, but offers meaning, purpose, love and joy beyond anything I can ask or imagine. In another way, the words terrify me. I want a level of pleasure, comfort and public approval to which I am (or would like to be) accustomed. The notion of willful self-denial is probably as counter-cultural as one can get in the self-indulgent, pleasure-obsessed individualism of the early 21st century.

My yellowed copy of Bonhoeffer’s The Cost of Discipleship offers counsel again. “To deny oneself is to be aware only of Christ and no more of self, to see only him who goes before and no more the road which is too hard for us. Once more, all that self-denial can say is: ‘He leads the way, keep close to him.’” (Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship, p. 97)

We live in a church and a society driven with claims of rights and privileges. Whether we like it or not, we are captured by a debate within the church over appropriate behavior (issues of same gender marriage and ordination rights are only one example). Likewise, whether we like it or not, we swim in the societal seas of privilege and politics, claims and clamor for rights, inclusivity and insatiable covetousness. Kermit the frog once said, “its not easy being green.”  We might rightly add, “it is not easy being Christian in these times.”

The question lingers in this chaotic time: "Does your Facebook page or your Twitter profile reflect that you are Christian?" Most of us know the old adage “if you were arrested for being Christian would there be enough evidence to convict you?” The Lenten journey to the cross challenges us even further. We are beaconed into a life of self-examination. Does my faith, my sold-out commitment to Christ as both Lord and Savior, standout in my willingness to embrace obedient self-denial?

We cannot, we must not, try to answer this question for others. It is a question for self-examination. I am mindful of the Ignatian “Examen” process.

  • 1. Ask God for Light – “I want to look at my day with God’s eyes, not merely my own.”
  • 2. Give Thanks – “The Day I have just lived is a gift from God. Be grateful for it.”
  • 3. Review the Day – “I carefully look back on the day just completed, being guided by the Holy Spirit.”
  • 4. Face your shortcomings – “I face up to what is wrong – in my life, and in me.”
  • 5. Look toward the day to come – “I ask where I need God in the day to come.”

(Taken from www.Ignatianspirituality.com; “the Examen”)

“Jesus said to everyone, “All who want to come after me must say no to themselves, take up their cross daily, and follow me. All who want to save their lives will lose them. But all who lose their lives because of me will save them.” (Luke 9:23-24)

The way of the cross is a way of self-denial. I deliberately repeat. We cannot, we must not, try to answer this question for others. It is a question for self-examination. This coming Holy Week will we walk with Christ to the cross and beyond?