Dear God, we look to you in every time of need. And when we forget to look to you, and neglect to seek you, still you do not leave us. Your copious warmth toward us redirects our wanderings, and simplifies our self-imposed complexities. Reach out to us again with convicting affection. Confront us with our sneering at grace, our trashing of your gifts, our opportunistic spiritualities. Disrupt our comfortable cliques, smash our smugness, overcome our mediocre morals. Lord, we don't always realize it, we seldom think of it-- but we long for the realism of the Cross in our lives. So much of what we call life is just make-believe. We want the clarity of the crucified Christ in front of us, always reminding us of our calling as your people, of the shortness of life, of our destiny in Him. Help us to live by the Cross. Bless the ones we love, Lord, and the ones we won't ever be able to love. Heal the wounded, lift up people who have lost hope, bring holy light to those whose minds are diseased. Unify us as a community of faith. And let us see again the power of the Cross in the midst of your gathered people. For Jesus sake. Amen.
A man who has a cabin near Mt McKinley in Alaska has vacationed there for several summers, but it was only last year that he actually saw the mountain for the first time. All these years, the clouds had prevented him from viewing the mighty presence he knew was there.
I. Paul was concerned that the people who had been brought together as a new community of the resurrected Lord, had lost sight of Him! Something was blocking their view of Christ and his cross.
A. This was clear by their behavior: they were quarreling and dividing up into opposing groups.
B. They also were placing too much emphasis on rhetorical prowess and philosophical speculation.
C. The "clouds" of human pride, quarreling, and power-seeking had obscured the simple but mighty dynamism of the cross.
II. This passage urges us to examine our own lives for whatever might be "blocking our view" of Christ crucified. In what ways might we be emptying the cross of its power in our lives?
A. Forming cliques to keep others out of power, or to promote our own agenda.
B. Looking down on fellow Christians because of their poverty, ignorance, quirks, or sins.
C. Trying to control our spouse or children or fellow employees to gratify our own need for power.
D. Priding ourselves on our superior spirituality and spiritual gifts.
D. Pastors judging parishioners and vice-versa according to the standards of the world.
III. How can we gain a clear view of the cross of Christ so that we experience it in the fullness of its power?
A. We can pray to God: asking for forgiveness in those areas where our need to control has displaced Christ as Lord of our lives; and seeking a spiritual renewal in our lives so that the crucified and risen Christ is truly the Center.
B. We can try to view fellow Christians, and all people, through the lens of the cross: they too are loved of God, who gave his Son for them!
C. We can break out of our own little group at church or elsewhere, genuinely reaching out to those who are new or different, recognizing we are part of the wider faith community.
D. We can try to let the cross do its true work in our lives, putting the "old self" to death, seeking true humility, like the mystics of old, actually meditating on the cross and the sufferings of Christ.
E. Even as we fulfill our responsibilities toward loved ones, we can entrust them to God's care and not lay our trips on them. We can bring our "control needs" to the cross.
F. We can quietly undertake some humble service known only to God (like Brother Lawrence), asking that this might be one means by which Christ may be formed in us.
The cross of Christ brings us together as God's people, and gives us God's spiritual power to live life in a new way. It is the Mt. McKinley of our faith. Don't let the clouds get in your way. May our view of the cross always be clear.