Today’s gospel ends with Jesus’ word to his disciples as he sent them out, “whoever does not take up the cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.”
From Advent through Trinity Sunday we remember the birth, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus and his gift of his Holy Spirit. From Trinity Sunday to Advent we hear again of Jesus’ life and teaching.
Jesus’ life and teaching led him to the cross. Jesus life and teaching confront human sin in all its forms. Confronting sin led to his Jesus’ death on the cross. But the cross is the sign that in Jesus’ death the power of sin is forever broken. Beyond the cross we find the empty tomb and the witness of Jesus’ new life in the power of the Holy Spirit. In our own lives as we confront our own sin in all its forms we come to spiritual death with Jesus. In death through Jesus our sin is defeated and we are given new spiritual life in the power of the Holy Spirit. “Whoever does not take up the cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.”
In today’s Gospel we hear Jesus teaching to his disciples as he sends them out, “as you go, preach, saying, the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (10:7) Jesus gave continued, “Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils; freely you have received, freely give.” At Pentecost the spiritual power Jesus gave these disciples came to the whole church, and ever since we who “profess and call ourselves Christians” have been doing as Jesus commanded. The good news of the kingdom has been preached; the sick have been healed, lepers cleansed, the dead raised, devils cast out; we who have freely received freely give.
Hospitals and schools began as ministries of the church. Many of the colonial Anglican clergy, including Samuel Seabury, the first American Episcopal bishop, had medical training and served as priests and physicians and educators. Western society has handed over responsibility for treating the body and mind to specialists, but we continue to work to heal the soul.
We know the hymn, “There is a balm in Gilead to heal the sin sick soul.” The balm of Gilead comes from Jeremiah 8:22; the hymn from John Newton, the converted slave trader and Church of England priest who among other things wrote “Amazing Grace.” The reality is that our souls are sin sick. Our spiritual healing begins when we recognize that reality and turn to Jesus Christ for healing.
We confess our sins; we receive God’s forgiveness; we are justified – set right with God – not by anything we do, but by what Jesus Christ did on the cross for us. We depend day by day on the mercy and love of God. Day by day we receive new life in the resurrected Jesus; day by day we live in the truth and power of the Holy Spirit; day by day we fall short of the fullness of God’s love and God’s plan for our lives, and day by day we are restored and renewed.
The English writer G. K. Chesterton was born in 1874 and died in 1936. He wrote in a book called, What's Wrong with the World“The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult; and left untried.”
Chesterton was fond of hyperbole. The truth is that the Christian ideal has been tried; millions of Christian men and women all over the world day by day for almost 2,000 years have taken up the cross of the gospel and followed Jesus. Millions have found the truth in the paradox that as we lose our lives for Jesus’ sake we find new, godly, and fulfilling lives.
I invite you to take your cross of the gospel today and follow Jesus. I invite you to confront your own sin in your own life and to confront human sin in all its forms wherever it is found. Recognize as we confront our own sin in all its forms we come to spiritual death with Jesus. But in death through Jesus our sin is defeated and we are given new spiritual life in the power of the Holy Spirit. “Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.”