Archive for March, 2012

Into the Gathering Storm

Saturday, March 31st, 2012

John 12:20-33
March 25, 2012
Mary Hammond

When it comes to end-of-life realities, time itself seems altered. It deepens, weighs more, and moves more slowly. There is enhanced significance attached to every moment on either side of a death. Afterwards, both re-framing and reflection continue for a long time.

John’s Gospel is dated the latest of the Gospels, assumed to be written around 90-100 A.D. The writer is not as concerned with historical chronology as the other Gospel writers are. He organizes his material theologically with the goal that others may see and believe as he has seen and believed.

Much of this Gospel takes place during the last days of Jesus’ life, that heavy-laden week of cataclysmic proportions. The story before us today occurs six days before Jesus’ execution. We have already witnessed the cleansing of the Temple early in John’s narrative, the raising of Lazarus from the dead, and the anointing of Jesus by his dear friend, Mary. If we read through the Gospel of John to this point in Chapter 12, we have even heard the story we will be retelling next Sunday–Jesus’ procession into Jerusalem when the crowds hail him as King.

Some Greeks have arrived in Jerusalem to participate in the Passover Festival. Jerry Goebel offers an interesting theory in his on-line Lenten reflections from April 2, 2006 (onefamilyoutreach.com, “The Hour Comes”). He suggests that these Gentiles might have witnessed the ruckus Jesus raised on the Temple grounds when he overturned the tables of the money-changers, driving out both merchants and animals. That incident took place in the vast Courtyard of the Gentiles, the only part of the Temple area where these Greeks would have been welcome. Had they been there themselves, or might they have heard tales of this confrontation from others? These are interesting possibilities to consider…

So the Greeks approach Philip, one of Jesus’ Jewish disciples with a Greek name. Their request is simple: “We want to see Jesus.” Philip could take them to Jesus, but he doesn’t. Why the hesitation in granting these foreigners an audience with Jesus? Do old prejudices rear their ugly head? It is not uncommon for the disciples and Jesus to disagree on what people merit an audience with Jesus.

So Philip speaks to Andrew about this request. Andrew is the other Jewish disciple with a Greek name. Still, no action. Finally, the two of them inform Jesus that some Greek pilgrims want to see him.

Their question is simple, although it is only implied in the text. “Should we bring these people to you, or not?” It basically begs a “yes,” “no,” or “later” kind of answer.

However, if you look closely at Jesus’ response, that’s not what they get. Instead, Jesus shares what seems to me a montage of rather coded reflections on the realities before him. Six days before his death, he has a lot on his mind. He considers both his inner struggle and deep resolve about facing the circumstances to come. He affirms the cosmic impact of the decisions he weighs.

Jesus acknowledges the paradoxes of his story. Surrender is the pathway to freedom, death the pathway to life, losing the pathway to finding. Suffering love vanquishes the prince of darkness. Being “lifted up” draws all people to himself.

It helps me to look at the Gospel of John more as a painting than as a narrative–a painting which juxtaposes colors both muted and bold in an abstract but compelling way…a painting splashed in darkness and light, evoking contrasting images of both mystery and clarity.

The miracle at the wedding of Cana, retold early in John’s Gospel, is a sign that Jesus begins his public ministry. Now the Greeks are asking for him. Jesus declares that the time is come for him to be glorified. Is this moment a sign that the ‘Jesus story’ is about to bust out of its seams and expand beyond anything anyone but Jesus could imagine?

A voice from heaven speaks, reminiscent of a moment during Jesus’ baptism. Some bystanders hear thunder; others assume it is the voice of an angel. Jesus counters that the voice speaks not for him, but for them. He is prepared to face what comes, as hard as it will be. They are not. Another sign of an important turning point in the ministry of Jesus.

The reversals of the Reign of God are in full, but muted view. They are much easier to “read into” the story after the death and resurrection of Jesus than beforehand. John is writing to an audience who has the death and resurrection of Jesus in the rear view mirror. “What does the ‘Jesus story’ mean?” John’s narratives ask throughout the Gospel. “What does it mean for you?” they echo again and again.

As Steve said last week in his sermon, it is not just the death of Jesus that is redemptive—it is his whole story. It is the way Jesus lived, the words he taught, the courage he exhibited. While the powers he challenged executed him, they could not defeat him. The ignominy and shame of a criminal’s death gave way to dazzling light and new life in resurrected glory.

I have been leaving for my morning walks before dawn so that I can spend the last half-hour home walking straight into the sunrise. It has been spectacular and unrepeatable every day, varied by the mist and cloud cover, or lack thereof. Through the dark silhouettes of barren, wintry tree limbs at Westwood Cemetery peeks the dazzling morning light–a red and yellow fireball, seething with energy and life. As the sun rises, the sky is sprayed with combinations of pink, purple, gray, white, blue, red, and yellow. The barren tree branches of late March reveal the light behind them more clearly than hordes of leafy springtime greenery ever could. This becomes a metaphor for the wintry, exposed seasons of our lives, where, paradoxically, we can often see the light more clearly if we gaze deeply into the dawning.

“Unless a grain of wheat is buried in the ground, dead to the world, it is never any more than a grain of wheat. But if it is buried,” Jesus says, “it sprouts and reproduces itself many times over” (John 12:34).

As we continue this season of Lent, Jesus calls us to both mystery and paradox, but he also calls us to come and see for ourselves, reflect on his story, make it our own, and live into it day by day. Amen.

Oberlin Community Lenten Service

Saturday, March 24th, 2012

Anita Peebles
March 21, 2012

Hmmm…what an interesting passage Luke 14:25-32). Hating my family doesn’t sound like something Jesus would want me to do…but let’s focus on something else first. In this scripture, Jesus is telling the people that if they want to follow him and be disciples of his to learn from his teaching, they need to evaluate the costs. This is what I think of when people (or I) say, “Well, he never said it would be easy…” But I usually don’t think about the “cost” of following Jesus. I sure didn’t when I started to think about God and whether I was a Christian or not.

I was raised in a Methodist church in a small, conservative town in mid-Michigan. I was always too shy to leave my mom and attend Sunday school regularly, so I went to the adult church services when my mom did. When I was in 7th grade, I decided to join a youth group in preparation for our confirmation as members of the church. Before I was confirmed on Easter 2005, I had to be baptized, and for both of those ceremonies, I had to go through classes and learn about the Bible and the teachings of Jesus. I remember learning about all the things we had to do to follow Jesus: love people, help the poor, feed the hungry, honor our parents, etc. etc. Something I don’t remember, though, is learning that we have to consider the cost of being a follower of Jesus, the cost of being a Christian. I remember thinking about and discussing what I was called to give up: things of the flesh, things of the world. I remember hearing stories about where Jesus told his disciples that they must be prepared for people to hate them and persecute them and even kill them because of him. I thought that was just a side effect…a truth we had to deal with. I never thought about having a choice whether or not to follow Jesus. God was just there, a given, and some people just refused to recognize God, but hey, they’d come around eventually…But as time went on and I saw that some people just weren’t going to believe…I wondered. It turns out, we do have a choice.

What does it mean to have a God that allows us to have a choice to follow him? People have said to me, “Well, if there was a god and he did want you to know he really exists and is real, he would have made everyone believe in him.” But that erases the point of having faith in something we cannot see or comprehend fully. That’s not the god I constantly search for, that’s not the god who I know. The God I know is capable of being distant, and capable of being close. God is able and willing to give us a choice to acknowledge the existence of a being completely beyond our imperfect understanding. Having a god that is willing to allow us to choose to wander away and who will be waiting for us to return so he can welcome us with open arms is one of the most meaningful aspects of my personal faith.

In order to choose God, Jesus says we must consider the cost of making that choice. Just as the king in the scripture reading sat down and considered if he could go into battle with ten thousand men against twenty thousand, and still hold his head high, we have to think about what we’ve got on our side and what we’re going up against. Just as the architect has to consider if he has enough materials to complete the job, we have to consider if we have enough faith, or strength, or love, or whatever it takes to follow Jesus and get the job done. What does THAT mean? Getting the job done? I think it refers to how much we can give in the name of Jesus. Whether or not we are sure of our talents and gifts and whether we can honestly dedicate them all to God. Giving up everything for God.

In this passage, Jesus isn’t calling us to actually HATE our parents and siblings and friends…he is calling our attention to what needs to be the center of our lives: he is calling us to choose God. If we love and trust someone more than we love and trust God, He is not the true ruler of our lives. Jesus is calling us to take up our crosses, whatever burdens and cares and troubles and joys and sorrows and pains we have, and follow him. He wants us to put all of these things out in the open space between our hearts and His, not hiding or withholding anything, but trusting in Him enough to bare our souls to Him. By letting Jesus into the secret places of our hearts, the shadowy parts of our days, we are allowing Him to shower us with grace, and we are openly asking for and acknowledging that grace. Only then can we take up our cross, and follow him. He knows our cross more intimately than we know it ourselves, and he can help us shoulder it on our daily earthly journey. By dedicating our whole lives to God, by putting everything out in the open and being willing to put everything on the line, we can follow Jesus, the one who lifts us when we fall, holds us near when we weep, and the one who lights the candle in the darkness.

This is what we must consider when evaluating what to do about Jesus’ command. It’s not easy, choosing God. No one said it was easy. Jesus…didn’t say it was easy.

John 3:16. Then there’s 1 John 1:5. Or how about John 13:34? Or even John 4:14? Then there’s the end of the 8th chapter of Romans

Tuesday, March 20th, 2012

John 3:14-21
Steve Hammond
March 18, 2012

[Hold up a JOHN 3:16 sign and ask where the last place was people had seen a sign like that.]

I’m not sure if it is as prevalent at athletic events as it used to be, but signs with nothing but John 3:16 written on them, or stenciled into sweat bands, or etched into the black stuff under the quarterback’s eyes, are still pretty common. That whole thing of making not even the words we read in the 16th verse of the third chapter of John, but simply the verse reference J O H N 3 : 1 6 shorthand for the gospel seems, to me, pretty odd all in itself.

A funny thing happened on the way to this sermon. I was going to end by inviting all of you take a sheet of paper and during the offering so you could write down a verse you might like to hold up during a nationally televised football game or knitting competition. But we are just going to go ahead and do that now.

In the pews you will see some sheets of paper and markers. During the offertory you are invited to write the chapter and verse number of something from the Bible that you think is important. Maybe it’s not the verse that sums up the whole Gospel for you, but something that you want to make sure people don’t miss about the Gospel.
There are Bibles in the pews to help you out. And if you can’t remember the verse just write out what it’s about. And it doesn’t have to be one verse. It can be a story. It can be the Beatitudes. The Sermon on the Mount. One of the resurrection stories or one of the birth stories. Whatever you would like to have on your sign, including John 3:16. [Take up the offering]

One of the things I hope we realize from our sharing is that it is hard to sum up the Gospel in just one verse or one story from the Bible. Contrary to what you often hear, the Gospel is not simple, even though there are those who would suggest that you can capsulize the Gospel in one verse like John 3:16.

The verse starts talking about how God loved the world so much that God sent Jesus to us. And then it says that whoever believes in Jesus shall not perish, but have everlasting life. But is it saying that God only loves those who believe in Jesus? And if believing in Jesus is the key to eternal life, what do we have to believe?

I’ve got a feeling that a lot of those folk who hold up the John 3:16 signs at football games have very strong views about what it is that you have to believe about Jesus to receive that eternal life. And I’m also thinking that it’s probably a lot different than a lot of other people believe.

I’m also pretty sure that when Jesus talked about belief, he was talking about something much more than a set of propositions we agree to, or a statement we can sign, or a creed we can recite.

Belief in the way Jesus was talking about, I think, was something much more akin to what we would think about when we use the word trust. Jesus had this profound trust in God that went far beyond the things he believed about God.

And, again, I don’t think that’s something you can capsulize in simply one verse like John 3:16. There is a lot of interesting stuff going on in this story besides that one verse. And you also have to remember we don’t exactly know what the author intended as quotes from Jesus and what was commentary on the writer’s part. Some scholars say this whole section we read this morning are meant to be seen as the words of Jesus. Other say that the part that starts with the “God so love the world,” are meant to be taken not as the words of Jesus but the writer’s comments about God sending Jesus to the world.

John’s gospel is all about light and darkness. Here Jesus meets Nicodemus in the dark of night. In the very next story he meets this Samaritan woman in the middle of the day. Nicodemus, a ruler of Israel, had a harder time understanding what Jesus was about than this woman at the well did. And, of course, Jesus wasn’t even supposed to be talking to her on two counts, much less drinking water from her cup. She was a woman and she was a Samaritan. But she was the person of the light rather than Nicodemus a religious leader of Israel.

I don’t think the contrast between their two stories is accidental. It just tells you that you can’t shorthand the gospel by waving a John 3:16 sign in front of a camera.

It’s also important to be aware of what John 3:16 says and what it doesn’t say. Notice that John 3:16 doesn’t say anything about the cross. What it does say is that God gave God’s only son indicating, I think, that God offered us Jesus for many reasons than for Jesus simply to die. That’s why I have trouble with the emphasis on what is called the substitutionary atonement, the idea that the only way any of us could escape the fires of hell is by Jesus being nailed to a cross.

Remember what we are doing here; suggesting that the gospel can’t be so easily shorthanded by simply one verse or, much less, by the chapter and verse number. It’s not that there isn’t something important, something redemptive, something that saves us by the death of Jesus on his cross. But there is also something important, something redemptive, and something that saves us by the way he lived, which was not, of course, unrelated to the way he died. The way Jesus lived, led to his death. Or to put it another way, if Jesus had lived another way, gone along with the ruling religious and political class, not challenged the status quo, conformed to the customs and assumptions of his day, nobody would have ever wanted to kill him in the first place. And there goes the substitutionary atonement.

Again, I’m not trashing the idea of Jesus dying for our sins, there’s just a bit more to it than most ideas of the substitionary atonement suggest. If it’s all about the substitionary atonement then it doesn’t matter how Jesus lived. It is simply he was born and then he died and God raised him from the dead. Nothing else matters about Jesus.

As we finish I just want to mention that odd story about the bronze serpent on that pole in the desert, that Jesus references. [Have somebody read that story from Numbers 21:4-9]. I’m thinking that the writer of John’s gospel might well have latched on to that story because of his own experience. Here is someone who was with Jesus, who saw the life that was in him. It could have well seemed like the whole business of the snakes in the wilderness was a story that resinated in his own life. He knew that when Jesus was lifted up, Not simply lifted up on a cross, but lifted up as the One showing us a new way of living in this world, when he saw Jesus for who he was, then it was kind of like looking at that snake on the pole. Jesus saved him, Jesus rescued him from all the snakes that were biting at him. When he looked to Jesus he was alive and living in new ways. Maybe that’s why he might have put Numbers 21:4 on the sign he held at the football game.

As we have shared all those verses and stories that are meaningful to us what I hope we are learning is that God works in our lives in many ways. The Gospel is all of those stories and verses that mean something to us even, and most especially perhaps, when the snakes are biting.

Upending What Is

Sunday, March 11th, 2012

John 2:13-22
March 11, 2012
Mary Hammond

When I read this story of Jesus’ cleansing the Temple in Jerusalem, I can’t help but think about insiders taking on their own religion. Jesus came to the Jewish Temple that day as a Jew. He literally—not figuratively–overturned what his religion had become, in that place, at that time.

Where was the House of Prayer for All Nations, when the Courtyard of the Gentiles was teeming with money-changers, sacrifice inspectors, Temple tax collectors, bleating sheep, and fluttering doves? Where was justice, when religious devotion bedded down with Big Business, fleecing the poor and enriching the Temple coffers?

According to ancient Jewish historian, Josephus, High Priest Ananias was a “great hoarder up of money” (see Pastor Edward F. Markquat, “the Cleansing of the Temple,” Gospel Analysis, Sermons from Seattle). His four sons and son-in-law, Caiaphas, were all high priests.

The House of Annas, as it was called, had a “lock” on the animal sacrifice business transacted on Temple grounds. Their influence and political power was formidable. Previously, the buying and selling of animal sacrifices took place on the Mount of Olives. In spite of protests by the Pharisees, this business was moved to the Temple area.

Then one day, Jesus came along. He couldn’t stand what he saw. Overturning tables, spilling money boxes, sending animals fleeing, Jesus offered powerful, prophetic resistance to the abuse of religion in God’s name. He challenged the silence that surrounded all that noise.

Throughout this endless political campaign season, I have thought a lot about what it means to “take God’s name in vain” and to “bear false witness.” Growing up, I was taught that “taking God’s name in vain” was about using cuss words. I witnessed my sister uttering a forbidden word during childhood. I subsequently watched my mother wash her mouth out with soap. I had no desire to ever experience the same fate.

As I’ve grown older, though, I’ve come to understand “bearing false witness” and “taking God’s name in vain” much differently, while I’m still no fan of swearing. We take God’s name in vain when we attach God’s name to actions and beliefs which the Holy One would never support. We bear false witness when we utter untruths or twisted half-truths and pass them off as truth, or fact.

We live in a culture where taking God’s name in vain and bearing false witness are epidemic. They have nearly become ‘sport’ in the political arena. We see the tragic impact of this in the disdain so many feel for religious faith. Sadly, I’m speaking of my own Christian faith right now. Jesus watched this scenario play out in the context of his faith right before his eyes.

The Hebrew prophets spoke out about the sacrifices that pleased God. Their critiques were not “new news.” Hear the words of Amos: “Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and cereal offerings, I will not accept them, and the peace offerings of your fatted beasts I will not look upon. Take away from me the noise of your songs; to the melody of your harps I will not listen. But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream” (Amos 5:22-25).

The expenses common laborers incurred as they brought their Temple taxes and sacrifices to Jerusalem were staggering. The Temple tax was equal to two days’ wages. Then there was the money changer’s fee, one day’s wage, because coins that bore the image of Caesar were not allowed in the Temple. The common currency of the Roman Empire had to be exchanged for silver coins from Tyre. A pair of doves, the sacrifice of the poor, purchased outside the Temple, also cost two days’ wages. Inside the Temple, that same pair of doves could cost the equivalent of 40 days’ wages. And don’t forget the Sacrifice Inspector’s fee: a half-day’s wage (from an article by Jerry Goebel of onefamilyoutreach.com). In today’s dollars, the Temple business was likely racking in 170 million dollars a year! (Pastor Edward F. Markquart, “The Cleansing of the Temple,” Gospel Analysis, Sermons from Seattle).

The religious leaders immediately brand Jesus as a trouble-maker, demanding evidence for his authority to create chaos in the Temple courtyard and upend their business dealings. Jesus offers them only a cryptic comment about destroying and raising the Temple in three days. The literalists are thinking in terms of bricks and mortar. The narrator informs his audience that Jesus is referring to his own death and resurrection, something even his disciples could not fathom at the time. Scholars generally see Jesus pre-figuring ‘the new community,’ a Temple not made with human hands, built around his presence through God’s Spirit.

This past fall, a group of 15 adults from church studied Brian McLaren’s book, Everything Must Change. Throughout its pages, McLaren contrasts two different ways of looking at Christian faith, the scriptures, and the world we live in. He calls one “the conventional view” and the other “the emerging view.” He makes a solid case for his belief that the “conventional view” is propelling us toward more violence, global crisis, and environmental degradation. He further believes the “conventional view” is leading us away from the God Jesus followed, distancing us from the radical commitments and practices of Jesus.

Jesus’ action in the Temple is much like the title of McLaren’s book: everything must change. Jesus is not tinkering. He’s upending the system.

Just as the fire of vision and justice burned in the heart of Jesus, what fire is burning within you that cannot be quenched but must burst forth into flame? What tables are you overturning? What tables are we overturning as a community of faith? Amen.

Vengeful Love

Sunday, March 4th, 2012

Mark 8:31-39
March 4, 2012
Steve Hammond

It should have been Peter’s finest moment. He finally got something right. He knew the answer when Jesus said, “But who do you guys think I am?” “We’ve figured it out Jesus” Peter responded for the gang. “We were just talking about it. You are the Messiah, the One we all have been waiting for.” If it had only ended there, Peter would have slept well that night. But it didn’t end there.

Jesus started saying things about being turned over to the high priests and being killed, and rising up after three days. It upset Peter so much, it was so scandalous, that Peter couldn’t keep his mouth shut.

“Peter looked right at Jesus and said, “Didn’t you notice that we are finally getting it? Didn’t I just answer your question and tell you that we’ve figured out that you are the Messiah? We have put a lot on the line for you. We dropped our nets, left our fishing boats behind, no questions asked, and followed you. We’ve been hungry and cold and tired. We’ve been away from our families. You’ve said and done things that make no sense. There has been a lot of weird. But we have seen that God is with you in powerful ways, and we have trusted you. So be careful. Don’t you realize there are people listening? If they even imagined any of this happening to you the whole thing would be over, you, we, would be disgraced, be laughingstocks.”

As the rest of the disciples watched this they must have been hoping that Jesus was going to offer some kind of soothing, clarifying response that would resolve the tension. Instead, he looked straight at Peter and said, “You’re nothing but the devil! Get out of my way. You don’t know anything.” So much for Jesus, meek and mild.

Jesus and Peter’s relationship survived this confrontation. But it was surely a pivotal moment for the two of them, the disciples, and the gospel story. Jesus was starting the process of helping the disciples, and all of his followers, including us, understand the real things that we shouldn’t be ashamed of.

Many of us, including me, get a bit of the willies when we read this passage. I don’t want to be one of those people Jesus is talking about who are ashamed of him. But lots of us are kind of embarrassed to tell people that we’re Christians, that we go to church and pray. People think you are kind of weird even if you say you believe in God, much less that you see God in a special way in Jesus. We know the life that comes from following Jesus. And most of us are willing to pick up our crosses and trust our lives to the God that Jesus trusted. But we don’t know how to communicate that in a way that other people get.

Mary and I have a Muslim friend who says she gets so tired of people, in their good intentions, telling her that they don’t have any problems with her being a Muslim. But she wants more from them than that. She wants them to realize that her faith is core to who she is, that it shapes the person that is standing before them.

I think that is what most of us want, too. We want people to realize that following Jesus is essential to who we are, not just this thing we take off and put back on on Sundays and some other times. We don’t want them to think we are embarrassed, but sometimes we are.

Look at this story, though. Peter and the others finally got over their reluctance to go public about their trust in Jesus. They were ready to tell whoever was willing to listen that they were followers of Jesus, that he was the Messiah, that they were casting their lot with him. They weren’t embarrassed or ashamed to proclaim Jesus as the Messiah, as long as he was the Messiah they wanted him to be. And that was the problem.

Jesus started redefining who and what the Messiah was. That’s when the shame and embarrassment set in. Who could be proud of a Messiah who suffered and died, who met violence with love? The Messiah was supposed pay back Rome a thousand times for its arrogance, its cruelty, its treatment of the people of God. The Messiah would be God’s avenger. The Messiah was the one who was supposed to do the killing, not the one who got killed. What would their friends and family think of them? How could they hold their heads up in public? The best thing that happened that day was Jesus insistence they not tell anybody.

Mary and I were talking this week with someone who got into a bit of a facebook kerfuffle because she was perceived as being soft on immigration. Many of you, even if you aren’t on Facebook, know how these things go. We try to uphold what we believe Jesus wants in situations like immigration and the response we get, often from other Christians, is that we are being naive and idealistic. Sure it would be nice if we could live like Jesus said we should, but this, they say, is the real world.

I think those are folk who are ashamed of the gospel, ashamed to take Jesus seriously because they themselves might be seen as naive and idealistic. The vulnerability that Jesus wants us to subject ourselves to, the compassion that could be abused, the love that could be rejected, and the mercy that could be seen as weakness, that kind of stuff could get us crucified. That would be kind of like picking up a cross. Jesus surely doesn’t expect that of us.

Well, in fact, it turns our he does. Jesus came to pay back Rome all right, but his vengeance was love. This was a whole different kind of Messiah gig. Jesus did pick up his own cross but, it turns out, all the power and violence of Rome could not overcome this surprising Messiah, the one who leaves so many embarrassed by his message, by his life of love, compassion, and mercy.

Instead of holding grudges, Jesus held on to forgiveness. Instead of aligning with the powerful, Jesus turned to the powerless. Instead of throwing out those who didn’t belong, Jesus invited them in. Instead of trusting in his culture, his status, his country, his race, his gender, his education, his money, Jesus trusted in God. He even trusted God over life itself.

What Peter and the others learned that hard day on the road was that it is not enough to proclaim Jesus as Messiah. You can live your whole life proclaiming you believe in Jesus and be okay. There are TV and radio preachers who make millions of dollars doing it. What separates the women from the girls is not that we believe in Jesus, but that we believe what Jesus believed. And if you start believing what Jesus believed, then things get scandalous, and suddenly people are building crosses.

This whole thing of following Jesus is scandalous. It calls all the norms we live by into question. But, Jesus says it’s the way to life, even if you have to pick up a cross to get there.