Today marks the end of the second whole month of daily reflections upon the Gospel of Mark. Please remember that I am sharing my personal reflections with you and are not meant to be understood as comprehensive commentaries. I hope they are a blessing to you!
Take up the Cross
And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? For what can a man give in return for his soul? For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.” Mark 8:34-38
On Monday, 26 March 2001 (2001.03.12) at about 5:00 am, I discerned my call to ministry. As I struggled with prayers that morning, I moved to scripture. I randomly opened my Bible to the opening verses of Genesis 12 (the calling of Abram), then another random jump landed me to the Mark 8 verses above. These became my calling verses.
Jesus had already told the disciples that he would suffer and die at the hands of the religious leaders, and now he gathers a crowd around him and challenges them with a complicated statement. If they want to follow him, it will be really really hard. It means giving up all they are to follow him; their heart, mind, and worldly things (their Nephesh or self).
In late February 2002 (twenty years ago), we placed our house on the market, gave a three-month notice at work, entered into a contract in March, packed up what we could on a Penske truck, sold the rest, and closed on the last day of June. Two days later, we moved into our on-campus townhouse in Iowa. It has been really really hard, but I can do no other. Outside my wife and kids, it is the love of my life!
I can tell you that a pastoral call is not for everyone (although two people I have pastored over the years have followed), but every one of you is called by the Lord to take up the cross and follow with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.
Thank you for calling me to the hardest job I’ll ever love. Give others the strength to follow you too.
I pray in the name of the Suffering Servant. Amen!