Friday, November 18, 2016

An American Heresy: The Myth of Innocence and Abortion

The Myth of Innocence and Abortion

The so-called pro-life movement has always represented a contradiction to me.   There is much advocacy for the rights of the unborn.   I regularly see billboards with photos of babies in the womb along the highways and catchy slogans on bumper stickers on the backs of cars.   My Facebook feed was filled with the so-called po-life telling me that if I didn't vote for Trump millions of babies would die.

But what I did not see was any compassion or concern for human beings once they were born. The political so-called pro-life movement is one of the most active opponents of providing health care for all in our society.  They oppose the biblical mandate of helping the sick on the ground that it would enable the unwashed masses to get free abortions.  At the same time many so-called pro-life advocates actively support the death penalty.
Only about one-in-ten (11 percent) Americans hold a “consistent ethic of life” position, opposing legalized abortion and capital punishment. In fact, in the general public, there is no significant correlation between attitudes about the legality of abortion and views on capital punishment. Fully two-thirds of Americans overall say they favor the death penalty for persons convicted of murder, compared to only three-in-ten who say they oppose it. Support for capital punishment is virtually identical to the general population among Americans who say abortion should be illegal (69 percent) and among those who identify as “pro-life” (69 percent).
Let me be clear at the risk of alienating my progressive friends, I believe that abortion is evidence of our bondage to sin.  I would love to see a society where there are no abortions.  But to risk alienating my conservative friends (I probably already done so have by the title of this post), I would also like to see a society where there is no death penalty and where the sick are cared for regardless of their ability to pay.   I advocate that the centrist, historic, and apostolic witness of Jesus Christ calls for the consistent ethic of love for all that are alive.   My biblical sources for this view are the red letter words of Jesus himself contained in Matthew chapters 5 and 25.  

What troubles me most is the the result of the inconsistent ethic of life of the so-called pro-life movement, is a world where more abortions happen because of their actions.  Abortion rates have long been linked to the health of the economy. 
Abortion numbers go down when the economy is good and go up when the economy is bad, so the stalling may be a function of a weaker economy,' said University of Alabama political science professor Michael New.
How is this so? This happens because by having a capitalist health care system that sees health care as a commodity rather than a public good; we give an economic incentive to abortion over childbirth. Most people who who hold a so-called pro-life view see no reason to change the nature of our market based health care system, but this is what the reality of it  actually is:
Planned Parenthood estimates that in the United States a medication abortion costs between $300 to $800 and an aspiration abortion (in the first 12 weeks) between $300–$950.
If you don't have health insurance, the average cost of prenatal care is about $2,000... The costs of childbirth can be steep. The charge for an uncomplicated cesarean section was about $15,800 in 2008. An uncomplicated vaginal birth cost about $9,600, government data
If we care about reducing or eliminating abortions we would work to fix the economic incentives, instead the so-called pro-life movement works to criminalize women and those who feel called to help them. My suspicion is that criminalizing abortion will only drive it underground and put more people at risk.

There are two reasons the so-called pro-life movement behaves the way it does.   One is just good old fashioned selfishness.  By advocating positions that conform to the views of the majority of Americans regardless if they are biblical or not, they hope to obtain influence, political power and monetary donations for their causes.  Cultural accommodation is good for the religion business, which sells things rather than change lives.  Cultural Christians espouse the concerns of businessmen rather than disciples selling prepackaged cheap grace in the forms inane music and sappy devotionals at Walmart prices (see Bonhoeffer, the Cost of Discipleship).

The second reason is theological, as the so-called pro-life movement embraces a dualistic theology which sees human beings as being born innocent.  This ideology maintains that while in the womb the baby is completely innocent.   Once born the child can choose good or evil.  If the child chooses evil then he or she is no longer innocent and his or her life is forfeit.  According to this world view. criminals can be executed because they have chosen evil.   If mothers abort a pregnancy they are killing the innocent and liable for judgment.  If that same mother brings the baby to term but advocates the killing of criminals or enemies in war she is still considered innocent.  The problem with this is that people who hold this view call it Christian.  It is not: it is the ancient Iranian heresy of manichaeism. It has more in common with the ideology of the so-called Islamic state than it does the teaching of Jesus. The so called pro-life movement is really a pro-innocence or pro-purity movement. When humans attempt to usurp the Lordship of Christ and judge who is pure or not by their own criteria it always ends up being demonic.

A genuine Christian pro-life movement would advocate for the elimination of abortion not because babies are innocent, but simply because they are alive and that life is the province of God and not human beings.  It would also realize that the mothers and fathers of these children are created in the image of God as well and have intrinsic value in God's eyes just as much as babies do.  It would not seek to outlaw and criminalize abortion  and its providers but to work with allies on all sides to help people avoid being trapped in situations where there are only bad choices.

For both Christian scripture and tradition teach that there is no such thing as innocence. From the womb to the tomb, people are always good and bad mixed up. Every individual has sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. (see Romans 3:23) Also, there is no such thing as a completely pure or innocent person, even babies. (see Psalm 51:5)  War, capital punishment and abortion are always expressions of humanity’s bondage to sin. Christians should work to minimize their occurrences, while demonstrating love, forgiveness and mercy to both those who commit and are affected by these actions. (see Matthew 5:38-42)  This call for love, forgiveness, and mercy will only have meaning  if we address the structures in our society which make it easier for people to choose death over life.  It will only embrace the truth if it realizes that people rarely get the luxury of choosing between good and evil in a broken world.   Most times we make choices and hope they hurt as few people as possible. (see Romans 7)

Always expecting people to make the right choice while giving them no help or incentives to do so is cruel and unjust.   A consistent ethic of life  will provide for others in need at every stage of their lives no matter if they are considered pure or impure by society. (see Luke 6:27-36).   Jesus did not go to the cross because we were good; he went because we are loved, and God chooses to forgive us despite our sin. (see Romans 5:6-11).  A consistent Christ based pro-life stance would be based on building relationships of forgiveness and trust rather than winning elections and triumphing over political foes.  A consistent ethic of life would also save more lives than the unjust system we now have. Not only babies, but mothers.  Not only mothers, but the sick.  Not only the sick but the imprisoned.  Not only the imprisoned but the strangers.  (see Matthew 25:31-46).   A consistent ethic of life would also help our world look a bit more the way Jesus envisioned it could be than America does today.

Friday, October 21, 2016

The Only Point of the Church is the Gospel

 A World Undone?

These past few months seem to be strange times for our church and Christians in general.   As write this we are in the midst of a national election that is bringing up powerful emotions in everybody.   Some of us fear a Clinton presidency will bring about the end of all that they hold dear.   Others of us fear a Trump presidency will bring about a police state to our county that will be complete disaster.  Indeed, others of us lament the loss of civility and the possible ending of relationships if people knew how we really feel.  No wonder mental health professionals are speaking of “election anxiety”.    Like the emotions generated by 9-11 and the economic meltdown of 2008, this anxiety seems to be affecting large numbers of us. 

What is a Christian to do?

Lots of voices in the culture are crying for me to as a pastor speak out.  The caveat is that this is only if it is for their particular side, other opinions are greeted with disdain and if I disagree any legitimacy I may have is automatically called in to question. In North Carolina during the past few weeks both Franklin Graham of Samaritan’s purse who supports Donald Trump and ELCA Bishop Timothy Smith who criticizes Trump’s views on women, immigrants, and Muslims used the following quote to argue for supporting their respective views.

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.
                                                                                                           -Martin Niemoeller

You know it gets serious when people quote a pastor who spent World War II in a concentration camp, worked with Dietrich Bonhoeffer to make a place a for Christians who refused to belong to a church that accepted the “Aryan Laws” and spent the postwar years trying to get Germany to grapple with how their society went so wrong.   Both of these pastors from North Carolina are telling us Christians to be engaged and to speak out, but what should we actually speak?

I will answer with another quote, this one from missionary and theologian Leslie Newbigin:

The business of the church is to tell and to embody a story, the story of God’s mighty acts in creation and redemption, and of God’s promises concerning what will be the end.   The church affirms the truth of this story by celebrating it, interpreting it, and enacting it in the life of the contemporary world.”[1]

In short, we exist for the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  

As scripture will tell us, this is whether the times are favorable or unfavorable.   If Hillary Clinton wins the election and Donald Trump loses, we live out the gospel and help a wounded society.  If Donald Trump somehow pulls out a surprise victory, we witness Jesus and work as Christ's ambassadors to a broken world.  In addition to telling the Gospel story, Newbigin uses the word embody so the gospel does not devolve into a mere ideology.   The actions he describes should look familiar to those who walk on the path of discipleship.   Celebrating as when we gather for worship or fellowship in what the bible calls koinonia, it is God’s people gathering to live out the truth that we are one common humanity in relation to God.    Interpreting, such as when we read the Bible and show how God’s story meets our story and the world we live in, and we grapple with how best to navigate all these relationships.   Finally, he speaks of enacting the Gospel in today’s world, which means small acts of love which add up to become grace for the afflicted.

This is not just a Spiritual Thing about the Next Life

When we embody the Gospel, we start to live as if the Kingdom of God is already here.   We welcome those world deems as unclean, we feed the hungry, visit the sick and those imprisoned sharing words of hope and deeds of love that bring spiritual, emotional, physical and intellectual comfort.  We do this because this is what Jesus did in the story of our sacred Scripture and because this is what Christ does today through those inspired by the Holy Spirit who serve their neighbors and world.

Because the Gospel is holistic it will always be political.   Jesus was political; handed over to the Romans and executed with a sign in three languages saying “the king of the Jews”.   His interrogation in John 19 is all about politics, “so you are a king” replies Pilate.  

There will be those extreme secularists who will argue we have no voice or are just a voice among voices.   Fundamentalists will say that we have nothing to say outside of those who already belong to their tribe.  Only if one becomes indoctrinated into their rigid culture and adheres to their litmus tests of purity is one given a voice.  Christ will call us to a different situation outlined in Scripture in such places such as Matthew 25.   Our razor to cut to the heart of the matter will be to ask questions such as how does the politics of the world affect God’s children?  It asks also questions like, who has the most authority? Or, who is most vulnerable?

In Christ Alone

The real heart of the matter in this toxic emotional environment engendered by the power politics of today is to ask the question where does my loyalty as a follower of Jesus Christ ultimately lie?   The biblical witness, and the witness of the faithful agree; it is to Christ.   Faithfulness to Christ is not synonymous with patriotism, and is certainly not synonymous with loyalty to a political party.   Conservative Evangelical leaders who have made political party loyalty a litmus test for authentic Christianity have created a pernicious heresy completely antithetical to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  Liberal or progressive Christians who castigate those who espouse conservative views conform to the same worldly attitude.   The prevalent attitude of our culture was captured succinctly by journalist Matt Taibbi.

Lie No. 1 is that there are only two political ideas in the world, Republican and Democrat. Lie No. 2 is that the parties are violent ideological opposites, and that during campaign season we can only speak about the areas where they differ (abortion, guns, etc.) and never the areas where there's typically consensus (defense spending, surveillance, torture, trade, and so on). Lie No. 3, a corollary to No. 2, is that all problems are the fault of one party or the other, and never both. Assuming you watch the right channels, everything is always someone else's fault. Lie No. 4, the reason America in campaign seasons looks like a place where everyone has great teeth and $1,000 haircuts, is that elections are about political personalities, not voters.” [2]  

This is not the way of Jesus Christ; we are called to stand against such thinking. A person who has as their ultimate concern the furtherance of the Gospel will see the world differently than many.  This person will also realize that my faith relationship with Jesus Christ may lead me to have different concerns than they do and that we can disagree in love.  As I once heard Shane Claiborne say, it is how we disagree as Christians that really matters.  

The world may not view this perspective as legitimate, but I have met many Christians who hold views that cross firm party lines.   One can find a follower of Christ, who opposes abortion and the death penalty, who cares about the empowerment of women and worries that our jobs are going overseas, who is ready to welcome the refugee but worries about the size of government.  In fact, if as a disciple of Jesus Christ your views conform perfectly to a candidate’s or political party's, I would ask you to go back to your Bible and think about things a bit more.

Hope for the World

My hope is that like the group that gathered around Jesus our church will have people across the political spectrum who will work together for the love of God, neighbor and world.  If you will vote for Trump, we invite you to be with us.  If you will vote for Clinton we ask you to join us.  If you are frustrated with the process, we really want to include you in our walk with God.  We have no choice but to do this because we exist only for the Gospel of Jesus Christ. 

Be blessed

Pastor Knecht

[1] Newbigin, Leslie, Proper Confidence: Faith, Doubt, and Certainty in Christian Discipleship (1995, Grand Rapids MI Eerdmans) 76.  Emphasis added
[2] Taibbi,Matt “The Fury and Failure of Donald Trump” accessed 10-20-2016.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Fear and All its Friends

Psalms 55:1-2
Open your ears, God, to my prayer;
don't pretend you don't hear me knocking.
Come close and whisper your answer.
I really need you. (MSG)

When I heard of the bombings in our area last weekend I felt afraid.   Not afraid of riding the train, or what might happen to my children, friends or family.   I had no fear of terrorists running amok.  I was afraid of our reaction, what fear will change in us.  So I gave thanks to God for the two homeless men who found the bomb at the Elizabeth train station and reported it to the authorities before anyone could be injured.  Indeed, I was even more relieved when a suspect was arrested.  It was blessing to move on before fear could be stoked further.

Listening to an interview with film director Antoine Fuqua later in the week, I heard him begin his remarks about the unrest and conflict over the shooting of black men by police officers by saying everyone is afraid, black men, the police, the rest of us as well.  Mr. Fuqua is right, and a large part of the dysfunction in the relationships between the differing groups of our society is due to the fears that each group has.

These fears are real. Black men have a radically different experience of American life than I do, and these experiences have led to very real and indeed rational fears.  It is not one incident that has sparked these fears but the repeated daily negative experiences people of color have in America. Police officers also have very real and understandable fears.  Service in the police is a very dangerous calling in our country.   They are repeatedly placed in the most stressful situations that happen within our communities. It seems however that in certain areas (particularly in regards to race)  that we are unable to listen to and understand our neighbor's fears. The problem seems to be that dealing with our own fears crowds out our ability to grasp the fears of others. Therefore with our empathy blocked, situations escalate.

This problem is exacerbated by the fact that fear has seemed to become a preferred method of communication for many of us.  Since the invention of the printing press, media has used fear to sell newspapers.  What is different today is that in our social media age the boundary between the media and the general public has been blurred.   If I post on my twitter or facebook account stories in the news, or my opinions of events, then I have effectively joined the media.   We have met the media and it is us. So when I repost an article highlighting a particular fear, I am embracing, validating and spreading that fear.  By embracing that fear I may be closing myself off to understanding the other. The more I broadcast my own fears, the less I am able to listen to you.  The more I see other people's fears shouted from the rooftops the less able I am to feel that others will understand me.  Perhaps this is why FDR famously said they only thing we have to fear is fear itself.

The only way I know to go forward is to follow the advice of St. Peter "Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you." (1 Peter 5:7 NRSV).  Indeed it is in times like these that our faith matters most.    When we trust in who is God good enough to offer us salvation without condition (grace), it gives us a foundation to stand upon when dealing with our fears.  When we pray, the first work to be done is within our own souls.  It is to remove the veil of fear so we are able to receive God and love our neighbor.   If we cannot empathize with their fear, we cannot love our neighbors.  Furthermore, if I cannot empathize with someone else's fears, why would I have the nerve to think that they would even stop to give me the time of day?

When we are better able to understand each other, we are better able to meet together and work towards solutions grounded in justice.  So the idea is simple, ask God to help you deal with whatever fear you have today so you are more able to love others and understand that you are loved yourself. As with most simple ideas the practice will be harder than the concept.   Perhaps you will be impatient or angry with me because I am really not offering a solution to anything, but just asking you to pray.   Prayer is not a solution in and of itself,  it is a means to work toward that solution hand in hand with God.  Prayer is never the finish line, but is always the start.

I am hopeful because I know that around the country and around the world there are people of Christ who are in prayer about what is going on today.   One of the underreported facts about what is happening in our country now, is that in every city where there has been unrest these past few years churches and faith communities have been on the front lines trying to do the very hard work of getting people together to work on ways to move forward towards mutual respect, dignity and justice. When these folks go to those front lines they are just as fearful as you and I, but their prayers help them move forward to build solutions.  So answer the call to prayer perhaps all you have to lose are your fears.

Be blessed

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Why I Give: A Witness

Giving is spiritual act,  it is also a deeply personal one.   How and why we give is a critical part of how we relate to God and the world.   People give for a variety of reasons. Sometimes I need to ask people to give, so think it is important for those whom I ask to know a couple of things about me.

First, is that I give, a Christian congregation is a community and as a servant leader I am called to do my part.   Since our capital campaign Mei and I have been giving approximately 12% of our income to Holy Cross for the work of  the ministry.  We also help out in the wider community and give to causes and ministries outside the church.

Second, is why I give.  This is helpful because we can all learn from each other when we share our stories and motivations for giving.   So the following are some heartfelt reasons why I give.

1. To Learn to Trust God 

The most important reason I give is to remind myself that God is good, and that God will provide for me and my family when I take the risk to give.   My witness is that so far God has proven faithful.  While I would always want more financial security, more opportunities, and yes even more stuff, God has always met every actual need we have actually had.   Often we have been surprised by a timely gift or opportunity that met a need we were worried about.   It has not always been easy, a giving lifestyle means making intentional choices every day.   My witness can also tell you that making these hard choices is not so bad in the long run.   So what if my kids don't have smart phones and tablets, they read books, play sports, make art, and do well in school.   Yes my cars are getting old, but they still work just fine.  No we don't go out to eat much, but we like home cooking better anyway.  Being able to give has deepened my relationship with Christ and I have had tangible signs that God is walking with me through both the good and bad of life.

2. To Lead the Community 

A key part of what I do is help people examine how to live a life in relationship to Jesus Christ.   Giving financially has been a key discipleship practice since the formation of the first Christian community as recounted in the book of Acts in the Bible.  In order to really teach something one must know how to do it.   One of the things that helps lead and teach others is my own experience of giving.   Over the years I have given in many different ways,  these help remind me and show to others that everyone has a different situation.  You may need to give in a different way than I do.  I give financially in at least three ways:  direct withdrawals from my bank account monthly,  in kind gifts of things the church needs, and occasional extra contributions.  You may need to give weekly, monthly or yearly and that is OK.  The most important aspect of giving that I teach is that it be done in prayer.   Lots of people have told me they do not electronically give because writing the check has become a prayerful act for them, and that is a beautiful thing.  Financial giving should not be done in isolation but in combination with our other faith practices.

3. To Live Faithfully  

I don't know about you, but I have trouble asking people to give if I am not willing to do so myself.  I would feel awful if I was merely taking from the community without contributing to it.   I see the contributions of many faithful people at Holy Cross and I am inspired to serve.   I am blessed to be part of community that is so generous, and I do not want to take that for granted.   My giving makes me more of a part of the congregation because I have a stake in it.   My giving also helps me take my faith life more seriously.   I am more likely to pray, serve the poor, worship regularly, talk about my faith because I give.   My desire to give comes from my faith, but it also reinforces it as well.  God gives us the chance to give because it can strengthen faith and people can find joy and peace in doing it.

There will be times when we can not give financially, and it is important to remember that giving is not a goal in itself, the goal is a strengthened relationship with Jesus Christ, and that it will be blessing for us and the world. If giving gets in the way of this then one should pray about giving in different way. St Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 9:7-8:

Each of you must give as you have made up your mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance, so that by always having enough of everything, you may share abundantly in every good work. (NRSV)

Faithful giving is motivated by a desire to be a blessing to others.  Like the perfect love of God described in 1 Corinthians 13 it never demands repayment.   It is not an investment that demands return,  it is grace given freely.  The model is God's own son Jesus Christ who gave it all for the sake of the world.  This is something we are unable to give back, but that we are able to pass on.

So my only request is that you prayerfully consider your own financial giving so that you can bless others the way God has blessed you.  We at Holy Cross will be asking people to support our work, but we hope that by doing so you can deepen your own discipleship walk with Jesus.

Be blessed

Pastor Knecht

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Who Bears My Cross?

Who bears my cross?  How we answer this question will reveal much about what we think about God,  the world and our own selves.  Perhaps you have an obvious answer or you struggle to figure it out. maybe you have never even thought about it.  This Holy Week and Easter I would like to wrestle with this question and see how different answers lead us in different directions.

Answer 1: Jesus Bears My Cross

Perhaps if God has gotten you through a tough time in your life recently this is your answer.   One looks at a situation that seemed impossible to overcome and yet by God's grace that person is still standing.  One realizes his or her limitations and relies on the power of God to make up for one's weakness.  The strength of this answer is that it can lead one to a powerful, daily, and living relationship with God.  

The problem with this answer is that Jesus specifically excludes it. 

Anyone who won't shoulder his own cross and follow behind me can't be my disciple. Luke 14:27(Message)

The way of Jesus Christ demands that we carry our cross behind him. In fact Jesus never tells us that he will bear our cross, he promises life eternal, forgiveness, healing, and hope, but not an escape.   There is a way that the statement "Jesus bears my cross" can be used to justify not living out one's faith at all.  One simply states "Jesus is my Lord and Savior" and "he took all my sins upon the cross" to justify a lack of transformation in one's life.   Then that one can go on living the way they always have.  

This answer can lead to a narcissistic focus on the self.  Jesus becomes our personal servant to bear any on the hard spiritual work we should actually be doing.  In this picture Jesus becomes "the help" and one barely knows his name and certainly little about what he is actually doing.   

Unfortunately, using the answer that Jesus bears my cross is good business.   It can be used to market a consumer friendly version of the gospel that makes no demands on life of the believer.   Just accept a few words as true and drop a few bucks in the plate is all they will ask.   This is what Diettrich Bonhoeffer called cheap grace,  grace bought and sold on a religious marketplace.  Seeing this picture in all its gory detail leads me to ask did Jesus really die for this? 

Answer 2: I Bear it by Myself

This answer seems to correspond to Jesus' call carry one's own cross in discipleship and follows the pattern Jesus himself set.   Jesus carried his own cross after all. 

Then he handed him over to them to be crucified. So they took Jesus; and carrying the cross by himself, he went out to what is called The Place of the Skull, which in Hebrew is called Golgotha. John 19:17-18 (NRSV)

The strength of this answer is that it does place accountability for the spiritual life back onto the shoulders of the believer.   One is taking up the cross head on.  One is making the changes in his or her life that should lead to transformation.  It confirms the truth of the the saying "we all have our cross to bear." It also recognizes the truth that Jesus' cross is different than mine. Jesus bore the sin of the world, I only bear an image of what he did.   

However,  as tempting to see this as the final answer it also has some serious weaknesses. If one focuses too much on our bearing the cross on one's own, one crowds out God.   Bearing the cross on one's own becomes a path to self righteousness.  It is all about what I do and not what God does. It also is over focussed on the self; the struggles of others have little meaning. This leads me to ask along with St. Paul the question "if I bear it myself then why did Jesus have to die?"  (Galatians 2:21) 

Answer 3: I Bear it with Help 

The simple fact of the matter is that when Jesus bore the cross he did not make it all the way on his own.   

As they led him away, they seized a man, Simon of Cyrene, who was coming from the country, and they laid the cross on him, and made him carry it behind Jesus. Luke 23:26 (NRSV)

Jesus the human couldn't do it all on his own, he needed the power of the Father and the help of others to carry the cross. This was all part of  God's plan to show us the way of salvation and peace.  A clue can be found on the night in which Jesus was betrayed when he gave a new commandment 

I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. John 13:34 (NRSV) 

We are limited sinful human beings we can not always bear our cross on our own.  One centered in the Gospel of Jesus Christ realizes that while one is accountable to carry one's cross and follow Jesus, we are not always able to do it, and sometimes we will even rebel from doing so.   I have noticed in the churches I have served over these 20+ years that often when I ask for a deeper commitment to Christ or the congregation someone will not able able to make it. 

Jesus realizes this and that is why he gave us the gift of church.  By this I do not mean the institution but the Christ centered Spirit filled organic community that is the Body of Christ.   We are called to help each other bear our crosses.  Yes we all have our cross to bear, but that does not mean that can't help each other carry them.   An individual can never separate his or her personal discipleship from the rest of the body of Christ.  We are connected to each other. 

When we focus exclusively on Jesus bearing the cross for us, or it's opposite, our carrying exclusively it on our own, we individualize and spiritualize the gospel.   When we realize that we are called to not only carry our own cross but to help each other along the way the gospel becomes more tangible.   My personal cross to bear has spiritual, physical, emotional, intellectual, and political hang ups.   When we bear each other's cross we get involved in the reality of our world because we get involved in the reality of our fellow children of God's actual lives.  

So this Holy Week and Easter I ask that we follow the advice of St. Paul: 

Bear one another's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. Galatians 6:2(NRSV)

Be blessed, 
Pastor Knecht