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Called to Follow

Theme: Take up your cross and follow Jesus. Proper 17 (22) Yr.A
Object: A necklace, earrings, bracelet a t-shirt, or other items portraying a cross
Scripture: Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me." Matthew 16:24 (NIV)

This week I visited a Christian bookstore in our city. I wandered over to the gift shop where I found a huge assortment of jewelry with crosses. They had necklaces, rings, earrings, and bracelets just to name a few. Then I continued over to the clothing department. There I found a lot of cool T-Shirts—many with crosses on them.

All of this shopping made me stop and think about our Bible lesson for this week. In today's lesson, Jesus was talking to his disciples and he said to his them, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me." Look at this cross necklace, do you suppose that this was the kind of cross Jesus was talking about? If putting a cross on a necklace around your neck was what Jesus meant, then being his disciple would be pretty easy, wouldn't it? How about this T-Shirt? I can put on this shirt and wear it around so that everyone will know I am a follower of Jesus. Do you think that is what Jesus meant when he said anyone who wanted to be his disciple had to take up their cross and follow him?

To understand what Jesus meant, we need to understand what "taking up his cross" meant to Jesus. The apostle Paul wrote that Jesus, even though he was God, gave up his divine privilege and became a servant. He came to earth as a man and became totally obedient to God, even to the point that he was willing to die on a cross. That's what taking up his cross meant to Jesus.

Please don't think I am saying that it is wrong to wear a necklace or a T-Shirt with a cross on it. We wear those things to remind us of the cross where Jesus suffered and died. But we must always remember that the cross is more than a pretty piece of jewelry or a cool T-Shirt. Taking up our cross means following Jesus is not always easy. It means that he must be more important to us that anything else in our life.

Heavenly Father, we are thankful that Jesus was willing to take up his cross and die for our sins. As his disciples, help us to take our cross and, forsaking all else, follow him. In Jesus' name we pray. Amen.

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Alternate sermon for Matthew 16:21-28: "Following Jesus"
Alternate sermon based on Exodus 3:1-15: "Moses and the Burning Bush"
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