The Cross is a Heavy Burden to Bear

Today I got a VERY SMALL taste of what Jesus went through. I carried a cross.

I have been helping a friend build a float for the Beaverton parade. One of the components of the float is a cross to symbolize Jesus. The sponsoring church had two large crosses stored on an adjoining property that I could use. I had to deliver a cross to my work site to be sure it would fit in the wood structure.

I have lifted crosses many times before. My beloved Ethnos Church had a very cool Stations of the Cross event for a number of years, and the last two years I was heavily involved in the event. Even on Sunday services we would often decorate with large props like crosses, and I was part of the service set up team. Needless to say I carried some crosses!

Ethnos Church Stations of the Cross - Jesus Bears the Cross
Here is the page out of the booklet I designed for Ethnos Church Stations of the Cross. I couldn’t find a good photo of the station itself.

Among the fourteen Stations of the Cross is one where you can lift a full size cross to get a sense of its weight. The point is to feel the weight of what Jesus Christ did to pay the price for our sins. The event offers many other similar activities which are useful for stimulating introspective thought, thanks and worship.

Lifting one side of the cross for a brief moment at Stations of the Cross is very different than carrying one a few hundred yards down the street. We intentionally used one of the lighter crosses for the previously described station at Ethnos Church… just big enough to give a small sense of heaviness. The one I carried today was much bigger and heavier. Ugh!

Cross stored by shed
Here is the cross in its original storage place.

Today I had perhaps three choices when I saw this cross sitting by the shed:

  1. Call a friend and have them help me carry or truck the cross to my work site.
  2. Carry it but think nothing of it or imagine what others would think – a funny and bizarre sight to see someone carrying a cross down the street – and laugh at myself a bit.
  3. Take it as an opportunity to reflect and pray.

I chose #3. As I carried the 8 foot cross down the street (huffing and puffing, taking very frequent breaks, and it killed my shoulder!), I once again considered when Jesus carried the cross long ago. According to a quick search, He carried it a distance under a mile – let’s say a half mile. This after being beaten nearly to death, with deep and gory lacerations all over his body and severe blood loss. He lacked proper sustenance. People screamed at him and mocked him. The mental and spiritual anguish must have been great! The rugged beam that Jesus carried most likely weighed over a hundred pounds. I don’t think my cross was that heavy, though wimpy me imagined it was! I had to stop a bunch of times and change positions a lot.

Taking a break while carrying cross down the street
I took many breaks while carrying the cross down the street.

After getting the cross to my work area, I was pretty tired. After the delivery I had to pick it up and lay it down a dozen times while fastening various supporting braces around it. Each time I lifted the cross it seemed to get heavier! I finally finished the supporting structure.

By the end of the evening, after six or seven hours of work, I hadn’t taken the cross down yet. Before leaving I thought it good to lower it to the ground to lessen the chance people might “mess with it” during the night. This meant lifting it out of a very snug slot perfectly gripping its sides all around with massive friction.

Lifting the heavy 8 foot cross out of that tightly wedged hole was literally one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done. I was so physically drained after finally removing it that I immediately had to go to the ground. Fortunately my incomplete float structure made for a perfect “altar”. I placed a board under my knees, “Catholic style”, and literally laid face first upon the makeshift altar. My head was pounding with pulsing ache, and I was exhausted.

Cross wedged in parade float structure
Cross wedged tightly in parade float structure

This exercise, though not pleasant, was a very good time of reflection. I believe God carried me through it, and my back endured it all. This float building experience has been a very spiritual one from the start. Many analogies have come to mind. Here I am, building a boat in the heat of summer. At least two friends who helped provide tools and company commented something about Noah and the flood!

Can you imagine how insane Noah looked to his neighbors? In today’s society (maybe especially “weird” Portland), people often ignore weird stuff. No one stopped to look, smile or ask questions. I even carried the cross on the sidewalk closely past a lady and her dog. She didn’t even say anything or gesture my existence at all. The dog probably reacted more than her master! Not that I was looking for attention (not at all), but I find it funny how oblivious and distant people have become these days. Community and neighbors aren’t what they used to be! People are losing their social skills and getting all paranoid or too busy to interact with others. OK, let’s recover from this social commentary rabbit trail.

I’m very thankful that God became a man – Jesus – and took the punishment for my sin. The rightful punishment from God for even one small sin is DEATH. This is why all men die – we have inherited the nature of the first sinner, Adam. Otherwise we would all walk with God and live forever. I’m thankful that Jesus conquered death by coming back to life after His death. I’m thankful He returned to the Father and offers His Spirit to live in and guide us.

The deeds of God require a response. We must believe all His words, repent from our sins, and follow Him. It’s what we were ALL made for – by Him, for Him and through Him! Unfortunately very few people realize their purpose and even less choose it. I hope not to miss my purpose. I hope the LORD counts me among His family. I believe it is true because He said so. The rest of my life I will continually attempt to allow His fruit and His Spirit to be born and grown in me. And I wish the same for everyone, for so does my Master.

For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. 2 Corinthians 1:5

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die — but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation. Romans 5:6-11

And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself? For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.” Luke 9:23-26

“Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household. Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. Whoever receives you receives me, and whoever receives me receives him who sent me.” Matthew 10:34-40

But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. John 1:12-13

See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. eloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure. Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. You know that he appeared in order to take away sins, and in him there is no sin. No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him. 1 John 3:1-6

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. Galatians 2:20

I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and I am willing to accept all the ridicule that comes along with saying I am His follower. Why should I be ashamed of the name of the Almighty Creator, the Highest King who has claimed me as His son? Good questions. Sometimes I don’t act as if those things are true. That is a shame. Change my heart, oh God.

The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.” John 1:43

The Ethnos Church Walkabout

I’ve been wanting to write something about this for a long time. Instead, my voice has been fairly quiet on the internet front, other than some goofy Facebook posts. I’ve felt the need to renew my journal writing, so I haven’t really invested in much online writing.

However, this topic should be shared, as it has been on my heart for quite a while. I finally got the gusto to write it down in response to a question on Facebook. Some of my close family and friends don’t really connect with me on Facebook, so I wanted to repost it here, so they can remain informed. For those who already read it elsewhere, it’s nothing new here. Just cut & paste.

I might not post again for a long while after this. Or maybe it will be tomorrow. Who knows. I do know that I am seriously considering a computer fast, and that might mean no “online presence/voice” for a while.

We are in a time of transition. The elders have wisely chosen a very creative path, one I believe even to be Spirit-led. I’ve seen great fruit already. They designed a “Walkabout”, which is for us a series of church visits. We go to a different church together as a group each Sunday. We meet afterward together as a group to fellowship and discuss all that we experience from many different angles. Then, one of our elders interviews a leader of the church to get more specific questions answered.

The foreseen outcome of this Walkabout is that we will choose together to do one of three things (though more options have already surfaced): 1) Together join/merge with one of the churches we visit whom we assess VERY thoughtfully to be a good fit for our spiritual gifts and passions, 2) go our separate ways, after each is given just and caring attention to find a place where they fit into a body, or 3) we all get reinvigorated after seeing all that we see through the process and start something entirely new.

This movement has been amazing so far. I consider it to be revolutionary and undoubtedly a wise course of action. I have no doubt in my mind at all that great and amazing things will come of it. The body of Ethnos already has been a powerful vehicle for movements of the Spirit that none of us who have bound together can dare deny. We know that God will use us, wherever we go, because He has done something very unique within us while we have remained together in community. The extension or outpouring of this is going to be exciting. And to see what the larger Body of Christ is doing in diversity of gifts and strengths has been an amazing sight to see, for sure. We are by NO MEANS “church shopping/hopping”. That is something we all pretty much despise, and our elders have always encouraged intentionality to the nth degree. No, we are going on a Walkabout, and there’s no better way to describe it.

While many aspects of this journey might be discouraging for some of us or challenging beyond our foresight to predict, I see very positive things coming out of it. Not one of us knows what the end will be, but I think the consensus is excitement and faith (mixed with some natural fear and burnout).

While I’m amazingly blessed to be in this community, I only wish our later days “reach” would have been wider, insomuch that others could have remained with us to the “end” (beginning?), so as to join us in this grand adventure. I guess I certainly have enough family to share with already, but because of God’s clear work in it, I wish others to have experienced it alongside us. And that, my friend, is probably what will come next. I’m confident that, wherever we all end up, there will be others to benefit from our story… and us from theirs.

We also have been meeting together midweek in small groups to further discuss the process, as well as get some of that necessary Christ communion and fellowship that we miss through the different-church-each-Sunday experience.

Our focus for the midweek gatherings is to briefly review church history. We discuss various points of how the church formed from the beginning. Not a pointless study by any means. Perhaps the most intentional like study I’ve ever heard of. We are intentionally picking apart this history with discussion that effectively helps us appreciate how the church has developed (or failed/watered-down, as the case might be sometimes) over the centuries. Our goal is to discover – at least for the context of our own involvement and small part of Christ’s Kingdom – what parts of the design of the church are important and timeless, amid other parts that could probably afford to be shaved off.

We are NOT critical or cynical, as I see many unfortunate groups emerging to boast something like this: “We are the extension of the New Testament Church, and you should leave your boring, irrelevant church to come HERE, where we do and reinvent everything right, and everyone else has it totally wrong!” I really do NOT have that feeling in my own heart, nor do I sense it my family. We are earnestly seeking not to create a trendy and new manifestation, nor are we desperately trying to “change the world”, demanding that God make us something outstanding. Rather we are intentional about becoming more faithful to the Spirit of God in the churches, even if it means to cease in our current, much-loved form – or any form at all (though we assert strongly the conviction that we all belong connected, somewhere!). Many forms exist in the church today – many thousands of denominations. We don’t seek to dethrone anyone or discourage anyone or say they are “wrong” or inferior. We just want to see how God wants US to function and serve His Kingdom… and it will require a total willingness to change. Though the elders and people of Ethnos Church have always had this general desire and bent, I believe now is even more a “shaking of the foundations” than ever before, the fruit of which I’m excited to see.

Ethnos Church Stations of the Cross – Open on Saturday

It’s not too late to come see this event that we of Ethnos Church poured out our hearts into. I am truly amazed what God has done through us. Many lives have been touched already. I don’t remember a single person who wasn’t significantly impressed and impacted after going through. We had too many thanks to count, and many very significant, flattering compliments. Wow, praise God that He is using our abilities for His glory and the building of His Kingdom. Thank You Lord for giving us these creative talents. Come today between 10:00am and 2:00pm to be blessed.

The Stations of the Cross is a contemplative, experiential walk-through of the sights and sounds of the last hours of Jesus life. I was privileged to go through the stations myself and was severely blessed once again. Last year was awesome. This year is LOADS better! Again, I am stunned by the creativity God has blessed our small community with. And yet all the glory goes to Him, our maker, the source of our gifts and strengths. Jesus Christ is our hope and salvation. He is worthy of all our best, our first and last. Praise be to His beautiful name! Jesus = God saves.

Here’s a few preview images to show some of what you might expect. If you can’t make it this year, make sure to mark your calendar for next year! Click on the images for larger photos and a bit of information. Go to the Stations of the Cross web site for more information.

Getting tired of hearing me talk about this? Too bad. It is my great passion to put my all into this, and I am NOT ashamed to shout it on the rooftops. Not for our fame, but for the fame of Jesus Christ our Lord!

Jesus is Scourged and Crowned With Thorns

Jesus is Helped by Simon the Cyrenian

Jesus is Placed in the Tomb