Lift High the Cross: A Reflection

On Saturday, we celebrated Black History Month with our sister parish, St. Augustine and the gorgeous incomparable choir, The Voices of St. Augustine. Rev. Floridia Jackson preached and our own Debra Brittenum and Randy Gamble led us in prayer. Our resident liturgical dance artist, five-year-old CJ Mason moved around the church swaying and hopping as the music and Spirit led her. We all clapped and, yes, even stood and moved our feet. Tears tumbled down faces and shouts of “amen!” resounded in the nave.

Rev. Jackson’s sermon called Simon of Cyrene into focus as a Black man, an African, a witness, someone who was literally pulled into the life and death of Jesus Christ. He took up the Cross of our savior and bore it part of the way toward Golgotha, toward the suffering and death of God, but also toward His resurrection and Easter promises.

As we wade into the waters of Lent, we are asked to consider what it means to take up the Cross. Many of us think of denying ourselves pleasure and comfort. But God does not want us to suffer, nor should we want to suffer for God. St. Oscar Romero preached in Lent of 1980:
If we fast or do penances or pray, it is for a very positive goal: by overcoming self, one achieves the Easter resurrection. We do not just celebrate a risen Christ, distinct from us, but during Lent we prepare ourselves to rise with him to a new life and to become the new persons that are what the country needs right now. Let us not just shout slogans about new structures; new structures will be worthless without new persons…

Now that the ashes of last Wednesday have washed from our foreheads and we bear witness to the earth awakening from winter slumber, let our Lenten practices be centered on God. When we give up, give away, and give way— let us make sure that the space we create is for God and for our neighbors. Let this season and our cross at any time change us as it did Simon. Not to break us down or burden ourselves more, but to build us up and walk in solidarity with the suffering God— so that we all may rise again when the stone rolls away.

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