March 4, 2012: Bearing One Another’s Burdens

Posted on : Feb 28th, 2012 | By | Category: This Sunday's Service

Earlier this week, I emailed you our weekly devotional that asked the question “WHY ME?”  I’m sure Simon of Cyrene must have asked that question also.  “Why me?”  Simon was “an innocent bystander” who was seized and forced to carry Jesus’ cross to the place of crucifixion.

How I got involved in this I’ll never know.

I was on my way into the city, trying to finish up my business there and get on the way back home before the Sabbath,

when I heard a commotion in the streets.

Next thing I knew I was in the middle of a mob, leading, dragging three poor souls out of the city to their death by crucifixion.

Just as I was trying to work my way toward the edges of the crowd, a rough hand grasped me by the shoulder,

spun me around, and I saw I was in the hold of one of the roman legionaries from the fort.

He led me to the officer in charge, saying:

Here’s a fine strong fellow, from the country

by the look of him.  Maybe he’s from Galilee

and a follower of the Supposed-King here.

He’ll do to carry the cross.

And, before I could protest, they had shoved me under an enormous wooden cross that had been lying in the road and prodded me into lifting it, bearing it down the street.

Those reflective words are from J. Barrie Shepherd’s book “Faces at the Cross.”  This reflection says it well.  “Why Me?”

As you may know, Cyrene – the city Simon is from – is part of modern day Libya which is located in northern Africa.  So Simon of Cyrene, to the best of biblical knowledge, is the first African saintly Christian.  However, there are two other things in this story that reveal a lot to us.  First, the name “Simon” in Hebrew means “Harkening” or “Listening.”  “Harkening” is an ancient word that we don’t use except at Christmas time, when we sing, “Hark!  The Herald Angels Sing!”  “Hark” means to listen spiritually.  In the Bible it is often used to mean to “listen to God” or to “listen to the voice of God speaking to you, but not necessarily verbally.”

The second insight in this story is that even as Simon “assists Jesus” on his way to death, what he is doing becomes the hallmark – the defining act of what it means to be a follower of Christ – bearing one another’s burdens.  Even though many 20th and 21st century Americans are convinced Christianity is a private, personal “thing,” it’s not.  Christianity is always a community experience.  It is never about “me” at the expense of the “we.”  Christians are always called into the Body of Christ (community) and called to “bear one another’s burdens.”

Simon exemplifies that and more!  In the closing words of this week’s devotional, “Being chosen means believing God can do a lot with our littleness and never more so than when we think our caring and compassion don’t amount to much.”

Blessings to you this Lent, that we may grow in our faith and be lifted up into the fullness of life,

Dan

This Sunday’s Scriptures

Luke 23: 26-34

“As they led Jesus away, Simon of Cyrene was seized and compelled to carry Jesus’ cross.”

As they led Jesus away, they seized Simon – a man from Cyrene – who was just coming in from the fields, and forced him to carry the cross behind Jesus.  (According to Luke’s gospel, Jesus was at the front [top] of the cross and Simon was behind Jesus.)  .

A large crowd was following, many of them women who were beating their breasts and wailing for Jesus.  At one point, Jesus turned to these women and said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, don’t weep for me!  Weep rather for yourselves and for your children!   The time is coming when it will be said, ‘Blessed are the childless, the wombs that have never given birth and the breasts that nave never nursed.’  Then people will say to the mountains, ‘Fall on us!’ and to the hills, ‘Cover us up!’ For if they do these things when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?”

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