Then Jesus told his disciples, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” (Matthew 16:24)
We emphasize grace a lot in our tradition. It is the strength of the Lutheran message and a gift to us and the whole church. We are reminded that God loves us as we are and there is nothing we can do to make God love us. God’s love comes to us as a gift, no matter what our faults. But the downside of being so focused on grace as that we can miss the calling that comes with grace. God’s announcement that we belong to Christ is not license to be lazy about our faith or to assume that we can simply take our lives for granted.
In fact, it is exactly the opposite. It is a call to be so thankful for the gift that we want to do whatever we can to further the work of Christ and give thanks for the grace that is ours. While grace is free – real discipleship can be costly. Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a Lutheran pastor who was killed in a German prison near the end of WW II. He had been arrested for being involved in a plot to kill Hitler. His writings and ideas continue to inspire people today. He was focused on the pure gift that the gospel of Jesus Christ brings and the grace that we receive. But he was dismayed at how so many Christians took it for granted and failed to be transformed by that same grace. He called such an attitude “cheap grace” and seeing it broke his heart.
This Sunday is the last Sunday before Lent. We will see Jesus climb the mountain with three of his disciples and be transformed before their eyes. The temptation was to want to stay there. But Jesus invited them out of that place of amazement and back out to engage the world as he began his own journey to the cross. He didn’t coerce them but he does invite them to come with him. The cross of Jesus would change the world. The crosses his disciples (people like you and me) take up continue to do so as well.
Don’t take the gift for granted. The gift includes a call. Each of us have many chances to give up something for the sake of someone else. Each is a little cross. Be ready when the call comes.