31Jesus began to teach them that the Son of humanity must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. 32 He said all this quite openly. And Peter took Jesus aside and began to rebuke him. 33 But turning his back and looking at the disciples, Jesus rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.”
34 Jesus called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 35 For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. 36 For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life? 37 Indeed, what can they give in return for their life? 38 Those who are ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the Son of humanity will also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of God with the holy angels.”
1 And Jesus said to them, “Very truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see that the reign of God has come with power. 2 And six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain apart, by themselves, and was transfigured before them, 3 and Jesus’ clothes suddenly became dazzling, such as no one on earth could bleach them. 4 And there appeared to the disciples Elijah with Moses, who were talking with Jesus. 5 Then Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” 6 He did not know what to say, for they were terrified. 7 Suddenly a cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud there came a voice, “This is my child, the Beloved One; listen to him!” 8 Suddenly when they looked around, they saw no one with them any more, but only Jesus.
9 As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus ordered them to tell no one about what they had seen, until after the Son of humanity had risen from the dead.
Please pray with me this morning, church:
We carry around so many things.
So many burdens weigh us down.
Help us to unburden this morning.
Help us to set down what is not ours to carry.
Help us to shoulder what we must.
Remind us of our call, that we are
Given as helpers to one another.
When we lived in Chicago, we lived on the top floor of a 3-story walk-up. And since it was just the 2 of us, we didn’t necessarily need to go to the grocery store every week. We could stock up, get enough groceries for 2 or 3 weeks, and for the most part, be fine.
Now, when we first moved to Chicago, I hadn’t yet discovered the joys or really understood the benefits of having my own reusable grocery bags, so when we would make these trips, we’d have like 20 or so bags of groceries. And, you guessed it, they all needed to make it up the stairs.
And…you also guessed it, they all needed to be carried up in 1 trip…because of course, they did.
And even once I wised up to reusable grocery bags, I found these wonderfully large canvas bags, so you could put even more groceries in them.
And, of course…all those needed to be carried up in 1 trip, too! Because of course, they did.
Now, I know you know what I’m talking about, church. Because I know that you do this, too. Raise your hand so I know that you’re with me…the true test of your grocery store prowess is not how quickly you can get in, get through your list, and get out…the truest test of your grocery shopping capabilities is can you get your bags from your car to your kitchen in one single trip.
Yes. I knew I could count on you.
What if I told you you spend more energy on that one single overloaded trip than you would if you were to make multiple trips with fewer and lighter bags?
We are so good at weighing ourselves down unnecessarily.
We are masterful at carrying around extraordinarily heavy burdens that no one person was designed to carry.
You are not made to be weighed down, beloved child.
You are not created to shoulder such heavy burdens.
I want you to try something with me.
This Lent, with our series Again & Again we begin our time together with a kinesthetic—or an embodied—call to worship. The idea is that worship is a whole-body experience. I say it every Sunday, bring your full selves to worship. Including your body. Worship is something to be experienced by your full self, not simply something you go to or something you have going on in the background, but something you experience.
So I want you to try something with me.
Slow your breathing.
Pull your shoulders down away from your ears…
How did I know you had your head hunched and shoulders up by your ears?
We do this when we’re stressed, or we have a lot going on, we tense up and our shoulders drift up and it actually causes us to be tenser. And so we’re caught in this increasingly perpetual stress cycle.
Straighten your neck and drop your shoulders.
What are you carrying around with you?
What are you weighing yourself down with?
What heavy thoughts are trying to make their way into your consciousness right now?
What burdens are demanding your attention?
And let them go. Let them fall.
If even for only a moment, set them down.
You are not made to be weighed down, beloved child.
You are not created to shoulder such heavy burdens.
This is not to say that there aren’t very serious things in our lives that demand our attention. There certainly are. But it is to say, there are some things that are yours to carry, and some things that are not yours to carry alone.
Again and again, God calls us to listen.
To listen when God commands us to rest. To listen when Jesus says, “Come unto me all you who are weak and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.” To listen when God is calling us to a new way of living and being.
I’ve often asked you, in your prayers, if you listen for God as much as you talk to God. We’re so good at asking God for what we need or what we want. How well practiced are we in listening for what God is saying to us?
How well can we listen when our shoulders are so high up they’re covering our ears?
How well can we listen when we’re so preoccupied with all the bags of stuff we’re carrying around?
Look, church, there is stuff to be done, there is work that God is calling you to. It’s the work of discipleship, the work of being the hands and feet and heart of Christ in your neighborhood and in our world. “If any want to be my followers, let them deny themselves, take up their cross, and follow me.”
Why are you carrying around all those extraordinarily heavy burdens that are not yours to carry? Set them down and pick up the cross of Christ. I promise you, the cross of Christ is lighter and easier than those weighty worries. The cross of Christ is the cross of discipleship, a cross that demands from you nothing more and nothing less than your selfless, focused attention on your neighbor and those in your midst who are in the most need.
And here’s the gift, even the cross…is not shouldered alone.
Even Jesus…had help carrying his cross, you’ll remember.
This cross of Christ—this cross and this call to discipleship—is one that we pick up together…in community and with one another.
Never has that been more clear to us than in the aftermath of any number of disasters we’ve seen over the years. Certainly in the wake of that winter storm last week, that so many are still feeling the effects from, and will continue to be affected by for months to come. We only get through this together.
And we are.
Church, the ways that you have been reaching out, helping those in need, checking in on your friends and neighbors and family…truly this is what it means to be the church. We carry one another’s burdens.
And we rejoice in that. As the Psalmist writes this morning, our praise comes from God who has delivered us. Those in need are taken care of, the poor are satisfied, and those who seek God praise God.
This bit of Psalm 22 is a Psalm full of rejoicing, but if you’re paying close attention, you’ll know that Psalm 22 is all rejoicing. If you’ve got your bibles close by or the bible apps on your phones, check out the first half of Psalm 22. Check out verse 1… “My God…my God…why have you forsaken me…?”
Psalm 22 is the very Psalm quoted by Jesus as he hung on the cross.
So it’s important to note that all this rejoicing we heard this morning, comes after these intense feelings of feeling abandoned by God.
Declaring God’s praise comes after and in light of the Psalmist feeling abandoned by God.
Have you noticed that for yourself? That it’s usually only in hindsight and after the fact that we recognize God’s presence and action in the midst of our struggles…
When we name our hurts, when we are honest about the ways we feel distant from God or those feelings of God’s absence, when we can set down that baggage we carry around…then we find the space and the capacity within our selves to name and honor those times we recognize that God was faithful and present. Again and again, we see how God has always been present.
When we carry so much stuff around, when we’re so burdened and weighed down with so much extra junk, it can be hard to have the clarity of vision to be able to see God in the midst of all that stuff.
This is why it’s so important to take time to unburden ourselves, church. Those burdens, that heaviness…that is not yours to carry, beloved.
We are not meant to struggle under the weight of those things that hold us captive, oppress us, and prevent us from living full and marvelous lives…we are meant to enjoy the life our Creator has given us, we are meant to delight in God and shout and sing God’s praises, to remember and turn to the Lord, to bow down before God and to worship God.
That is our purpose.
That is our calling.
God delights so much in you, beautiful one. Would you make time and space in your life to delight in God?
Again and again, God offers to help carry your burdens.
You are not meant to carry them alone.
You are created to take up and carry the cross of Christ. A cross of discipleship. A cross of compassion and helping and sharing and love.
A cross that we carry together as a community of faith.
Set your burdens down.