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Taking Up the Cross:
Holy Thursday: April 9, 2009

by Kendra Dunbar

Suggested reading: Matthew 16:21-28

And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, "God forbid it, Lord! This must never happen to you." But he turned and said to Peter, "Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling-block to me; for you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things." Then Jesus told his disciples, "If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me."
Matthew 16:22-24

Peter, like so many of us, was trying to remain cautiously faithful. He wanted to protect Christ, he did not want him to be humiliated and killed. Often we want to stop moving forward and come up with a safe plan, risk the least, and be happy with the results.

However, Jesus makes it clear that Peter must not stand in the way. "Get behind me, Satan." In following Jesus, there is no promise of safety or bodily comfort. To follow Jesus means giving one's life for the gospel.

For me, the gospel is about liberation and redemption, salvation and justice. The gospel compels us to live righteously--in right relation. As a black woman growing up in the United States of America, my cross is part of the black-freedom tradition.

It is born out of the crosses of those who came before me: Ida B. Wells, Marcus Garvey, Soujurner Truth, Harriet Tubman, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Jr., Stokely Carmichael. These names stir within and help me connect with the divine in Scripture.

Nikki Giovanni wrote a poem called "The Funeral of Martin Luther King, Jr." that illuminates some of what it means for me to pick up my cross. (The complete poem can be found in The Collected Poetry of Nikki Giovanni, HarperCollins, 2007.)

But death is a slave's freedom
We seek the freedom of free men

One can find freedom in death, but what happens to ourselves, our communities, and our commitment to live for the gospel? It is my cross to carve out a space, to redefine what it means to be free, on earth as it is in heaven.

I invite all of you to find a poem that speaks to you personally. Think about your cross--not the cross you want to carry, but the cross that connects you with the divine. This is probably the last cross you want on your hands, the most inconvenient of crosses.

How does it feel to carry it? How does it relate to your community? What is its meaning for the communities of the world? How do you live it? How don't you live it?

My cross is to fight for a church that can be in right relation with all communities. My cross is to work with young people so alienated and pushed out that hope is a slogan, an unrealized dream, but never a state of being. My cross is to help create a world where Martin Luther King, Jr., could have lived and preached nonviolence.

Kendra Dunbar is the executive secretary for the Office of Youth & Young Adults, Mission Contexts & Relationships, General Board of Global Ministries.

Lent/Easter meditations by missionaries and other resources.

See Also...
Topic: Bible Christian love Easter Jesus Christ Lent United Methodist Church
Geographic Region: World
Source: GBGM Mission News

Date posted: Mar 10, 2009