Stewardship 1 – 2018 LSB #’s 835:1-3 & 6, 829, 830
Text – Matthew 16:24
Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself & take up his cross & follow me.”
EMBRACING YOUR CALLING AS A DISCIPLE
When we speak of taking up our cross, so often it’s in terms of suffering – bearing a burden as we serve the Lord. Who here is left-handed? Brothers! Sisters! When people say to a friend of mine, “I didn’t know you were left-handed.” He always says, “It is the cross I bear.” I’ll bet you’ve said something like that from time to time.
Is that what Jesus meant when He tells us to take up our cross & follow Him? In the Bible & in the Lutheran confessions we can see three different aspects of this phrase, “take up your cross.”
First & foremost, in this passage, in chapter 10, & others, Jesus is talking about being ready to die, to give up this earthly life, rather than renounce our faith. He points to this when He asks the rhetorical question in verse 26, “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world & forfeits his soul?”
That is pretty heavy stuff, but it also makes sense. Why would anyone choose a temporary life instead of an eternal one? When people stand here before the altar & confirm the vows taken at their Baptism, we ask: “Do you intend to continue steadfast in this confession & Church & to suffer all, even death, rather than fall away from it?”
They answer, “I do, by the grace of God,” because it is only by grace through the gift of faith that we would be able to do such a thing. The same applies to suffering or persecution. Jesus promises that we will be hated on account of our faith. We see some of that here in the U.S., but there are brothers & sisters around the world who live each day in fear of physical harm or death, just because they have faith in Jesus as their Savior. We will continue to pray for them – they are our brothers & sisters in Christ.
Now, it’s important to note that Jesus always starts off with words like, “If anyone would come after me…” or “would follow me…” Jesus never asks us to do something that He hasn’t already done. He never says, “I’ll be right behind you.” He always says, “Follow me. I’m going ahead of you.”
So when He asks us to be ready to suffer or to die for the faith, it is because He has already suffered & died on the cross of Calvary for each & for every one of us. He has already felt the sting of death as punishment for our sins. And He did not stay dead as Easter morning has proven that God’s promise to defeat sin, death & the Devil has been fulfilled.
The 2nd person of the Trinity ascended into Heaven with the promise of returning to bring us home to be with Him. Jesus always leads. Before He asks us to take up our cross, He carried His to Calvary.
Another aspect to the phrase “take up your cross” ties in with “Embracing Your Calling as a Disciple.” It is living your faith. Taking up the cross means lifting HIGH the cross as we serve people around us, as we share God’s love & gifts that we received through Jesus Christ. We lift high the cross as we serve in the different vocations given to us by our Lord.
Let me ask this: Do you see the work you do as holy & sacred, or do you get to work on Monday morning with the deep desire that it was already Friday? Before the author entered the ministry, he worked with a secretary named Mary who would always, ALWAYS talk about the countdown to Friday. Monday was the WORST. By Wednesday, there was some hope.
On Friday, the hour-by-hour countdown began. When she’d say something like, “only one more hour until the weekend!” people would tease her by replying, “And just think, only 63 more hours until we’re back to Monday morning!” Mary never laughed at that. Aren’t we all guilty of that from time to time – getting caught up in the routine & mundane part of work – losing sight of the bigger picture of what we’re doing as a team, as a congregation – even more, losing sight of the fact that our everyday efforts reflect our love for God?
The work we think is mundane or routine truly, truly matters to God’s people whom He puts in our lives! Whether you’re transplanting a heart or sweeping a floor; repairing a furnace or balancing a budget, making high-level decisions at a company, or making sure your household is running smoothly – in God’s eyes, every vocation is equally important.
In everything we do in this world, God is at work in us & through us, through the tasks we accomplish, for the benefit of the world He loves so much. When we serve each other in a way that glorifies God & points to Christ, we are taking up our cross. We are lifting the cross of Jesus Christ & carrying it into the world. We are embracing our calling as His disciples.
What I’m hoping you’ll see, what I’m praying you will live, is the very real calling each of you has. You don’t have to be a pastor or Christian teacher to serve God. With every tiny act, every conversation, every cost breakdown sheet you submit, each time you clean up after one of your children – or yourself – you are serving the Creator, Redeemer & Sustainer of the world.
Are you still skeptical? Listen to the Apostle Paul as he writes by God’s inspiration in Colossians chapter 3:
“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.” (Colossians 3:23-24 NIV)
“Whatever you do...” This is not a Sunday-only thing. All the big things, all the little things, ALL the things that we do, matter to God. They are holy & sacred. They are making a difference in the Kingdom. And I really, really want you to know that, truly KNOW & embrace that, in your heart.
It is nice to look forward to a weekend when we can rest & spend time with family & friends. It is also comforting & encouraging to know that when we’re at work 5 days (or more) of the week, we are serving our Savior. We are bringing His Kingdom into the world He loves SO much that He suffered & died for every person here. And He did not remain dead!
Here’s what I’d like to do. Each year, we install, we dedicate or rededicate, workers for service in God’s church – the Council, the Elders, the teachers. Today we’re going to have a service of consecration, a setting apart of everyone present today, for the work each of you does in this world. Every vocation is sacred, & God wants you to know that. He wants you to live it.
Everyone who is able, would you please rise.
Slide: Service of Consecration (based on Colossians 3) Seven Slides
P: In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen. Since, then, we have been raised with Christ, we are called to set our hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.
C: By God’s grace, we will set our minds on things above, not on earthly things.
P: For we died, and our lives are now hidden with Christ in God.
C: When Christ, Who is our life, appears, then we also will appear with Him in glory.
P: Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, we will clothe ourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.
C: We will bear with each other and forgive one another, just as the Lord forgave us.
P: And over all these virtues we will strive to put on love,
C: Which binds them all together in perfect unity.
P: Through the faith God has given us, in whatever we do, whether in word or deed,
C: We will do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.
P: People of God, I now consecrate you – set you apart – for service to God in everything you do. God calls upon each of us in all that we do to work at it with all our hearts, as working for Him.
C: It is truly the Lord Christ we are serving. Dear God, work through us so that we carry the cross of Jesus Christ boldly in all we say, in all we do, in every way we serve in this world. Amen!
Let’s remain standing, & close out the service of Consecration by singing “Lift High the Cross.”
REFRAIN: Lift high the cross, the love of Christ proclaim,
Till all the world adore His sacred Name.
All newborn soldiers of the Crucified
Bears on their brows the seal of Him Who died. REFRAIN
O Lord, once lifted on the glorious tree,
As Thou hast promised, draw the world to Thee. REFRAIN
So shall our song of triumph ever be:
Praise to the Crucified for victory. REFRAIN
Now may the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, keep your hearts & minds in Christ Jesus as together we embrace our calling as disciples, unto life everlasting. Amen.
Pastor Dean R. Poellet