Shaped by the Cross
St. Peter and St. Paul, Apostles 
29 June 2016
If suffering is the mark of our Master, it will also be the mark of those who follow Him. Where there is suffering, there is the cross. Where the cross is, the church is. Where the church is, life is. Suffering is one of the signifying marks the holy church. The One who triumphs in suffering founds a church that triumphs the same way. Her weakness is not a sign of her incompetence, it is the sign of her triumph. If they have treated Jesus so, how shall they treat those who follow Him? Exactly the same way.

Christ promises to provide the resources necessary to bear the burdens that He sends. Although we know His promises to us, we do not know how this works at the outset of any holy endeavor. We are often afraid. This is why He forbids us to look back (Lk 9:62). Sometimes we don't know how we will bear the burdens that He sends. Sometimes we're quite sure that we shall collapse under the pressure of our work, under the hatred of the world, and under the rage and spite of Satan our enemy. We will not know now how to bear all this. We may not know until the end of the day, until the end of the decade, until the end of a career, or until the end of life; and only when Christ Himself is willing to reveal the answer to us and even then the answer is to shape us like His cross by constantly crucifying the flesh with its passions and desires. "Wait on the Lord!"

Purely earthly relationships, as important as they are, such as commitment to mother or father, must not be permitted to intrude on following the Savior to Jerusalem. How hard this is for us who belong to the church. Our priorities change. We begin to live in a family relationship created by the blood of Christ poured out for the sheep. They are our priority. Blessedly for us, we have families that are likewise in the community of the faithful.

However, we need to be warned that sometimes our enemies are in our own household; holding us back from the mission of Christ by reasons that seem valid at the time. So it seemed right and holy for Peter that when Jesus had set his face toward Jerusalem, he should say "It shall not be so for you, dear Lord, to suffer and die." Yet, Jesus will have no part of that. "Get behind me, because I am setting my face to Jerusalem."

The church's whole life is centered on the cross. The focus of the four Gospels is the trek of Jesus from cradle to cross. Half or more of the Gospels focuses on the momentous last six weeks of the earthly life of Jesus, leading up to His crucifixion. Indeed, the Bible has no meaning apart from its being centered in the cross of Jesus Christ. The Bible without the cross is meaningless. Martin Luther says, "A Christian can no more do without the cross than without food or drink."  This is why we sing the Thomas Kingo hymn (and not just at Lent): "On My Heart Imprint Your Image" (see below).

As we follow on with Jesus, setting our faces toward Jerusalem with Him, He will inscribe on our hearts that faithful statement: "Jesus, crucified for me." There will be days when you will feel like you have been turned into meatloaf, all ground-up and burned around the edges. It is at moments like those, when we must hear our Master call to us: "Come with me to Jerusalem. Set your face toward the cross. See your salvation in my suffering. And in your suffering be shaped like me."

Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray
Memorial Lutheran Church

Martin Luther

"For [the children of God] the holy cross serves for learning the faith, for [learning] the power of the word, and for subduing whatever sin and pride remain. Indeed, a Christian can no more do without the cross than without food or drink.
"The touch of Christ sanctifies all the sufferings and sorrows of those who believe in Him. Whoever does not suffer shows that he does not believe that Christ has given him the gift of sharing in His own passion. But if anyone does not wish to bear the cross which God places upon him, he will not be compelled to do so by anyone. He is always free to deny Christ. But in so doing he must know that he cannot have fellowship with Christ or share in any of His gifts.

"For example, a merchant, a hunter, a soldier risk so much pain for the sake of an uncertain gain and victory, while here, where it is certain that glory and blessedness will be the result, it is a disagreeable thing to suffer even for a bit, as Isaiah 54, Christ in John 16, Peter in 1 Peter 1, and Paul in 2 Corinthians 4 usually put it, 'for a little while,' and momentarily.

"In summary, since God is the same and the cause is the same, in which he has upheld the faith of all the saints so that He might be vindicated, God will not now, just for our own sake, be found a liar; nor are we to make a liar of Him. God grant, whether we do or do not believe, that He will yet defend his word and surely help us. This demands great effort and care so that, in the first place, we turn our eyes from the might of this world and second, hold fast to the word. The eye disregards the word and relies on what is visible, but a Christian, in contrast, disregards what he can see and holds to the word."

Martin Luther, That a Christian Should Bear His Cross with Patience
2 Corinthians 4:7-18

We have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus' sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you.

Since we have the same spirit of faith according to what has been written, "I believed, and so I spoke," we also believe, and so we also speak, knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence. For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.

So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. (ESV)
On my heart imprint Your image, Blessèd Jesus, King of grace, That life's riches, cares, and pleasures Never may Your work erase; Let the clear inscription be: Jesus, crucified for me, Is my life, my hope's foundation, And my glory and salvation! Amen.

For infant Addison Kist and her parents, Evan and Cara Kist, that Addison may be kept in the arms of Jesus and her parents would be strengthened as they watch over her

For the members of St. Paul Lutheran Church, Wilson, Texas as they celebrate the congregation's 90th anniversary, that they would give thanks to the God who makes descendants like the stars of the sky

For the Supreme Court of the United States, which is undermining the rule of law with politically-normed rulings, that our polity would not be shattered by such un-democratic decisions
Art: Durer, Albrecht  The Adoration of the Trinity (1515) 
Memorial Lutheran Church
© Scott Murray 2016
Memorial Lutheran Church, 5800 Westheimer Rd., Houston, TX 77057
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