Have you ever stopped to think how crazy the Christian faith is? I own an iPhone, a computer, I have ready use of a car, I can travel with relative ease...and I believe that a convicted felon, publicly and brutally executed by the Romans 2,000 years ago, is the Christ of God. It sounds insane, at least to my ears, and almost too-good-to-be-true.
Many in our culture would rather something more akin to G.I Jesus than to the Messiah we do have. We want Jesus to sweep in, demolish the Romans (then) or to come in and lay waste to our foes today. What we have as a vision of the Christ is the Crucified-yet-Risen One who brings not an AKA-47 but, rather, a message of Peace. Jesus' ways are not our ways; the God revealed by the Christ is very much unlike us as well.
On this, the second day of Lent, our Gospel reminds us of how counter-cultural Jesus really is. "If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me." Seriously? I spend a great deal of time fleeing my cross, running from it, and this guy wants me to embrace it and follow along?
It bears saying that all of us come to Lent as we are. There is a temptation to find the journey overwhelming and to give up. This is sort of like those people who resolve to get fit, buy P90X and discover how difficult it is. Rather than struggling through, putting in the time and practice needed, they shelve it and say, "I'll come back to this when I'm more fit." Isn't that funny? The very thing that will help them get fit is precisely what they shelve in order to, what, go back to their old ways?
Perhaps today's spiritual exercise is to look at our lives, briefly, and discover the crosses that leer down at us. All of us have them. Yet many of us flee from their shadows. Can we find the courage to claim our cross as our own and to follow this Jesus fellow as he carries his own cross, his message of God's Kingdom, in a sinful and broken world? Will we walk the way of the convict, the way of one totally possessed by the values of His Father's Kingdom that our own satanic dominion sought to destroy him?