Wear the cross.
That is our baptismal vocation. Justification tells us that we cannot put the cross on, God must put the cross on us. This He does in baptism. He grants us the Spirit so that we might believe the Word in the water. We are to wear the cross -- not just or even primarily on Sunday morning but where God has placed us. As Luther famously put it -- from the milk maid to the preacher, where God has put us -- showing forth in our lives the new life that this cross produces. We do not have to go somewhere else; we serve the Lord and fulfill His calling where we are. As husband to wife and wife to husband... As parent to child and child to parent... As neighbor to neighbor... As employer to employee and employee to employer... The place is where we are. The call is to wear the cross.
Wear the cross. If we believe that God has killed off the old person in baptism so that He can bring forth in us the new person of His own creation, then we do not have to do anything to recreate ourselves -- we simply be what we have become. We wear the cross. The baptized people of God look different than those outside or not yet in the Kingdom of God. What we wear is not a birthmark, so to speak, but the mark of our new birth. This means showing forth the kingdom by the good works we were created in Christ Jesus to do. Holiness of life, holy conversation, and holy works that proceed from the new heart Christ put within us in our baptism.
My experience is that we Lutherans are better and more at ease proclaiming the Word of the cross than we are wearing that cross.
Bear the cross.
As so many have said so often, one the great witnesses of John Paul II in his final years was the manner with which he wore his suffering. The world insists that suffering is always bad and the job of medicine or religion or self-help or therapy is to get rid of suffering. We know that this is impossible. But we are not left simply with the inevitability of suffering. We bear the cross in suffering, in weakness, and in frailty. We bear the cross in Christ and for His glory. We carry in these clay jars the glory of Christ. We watched Him suffer and we saw the fruit His suffering bore in our salvation. He has taught us, equipped us, empowered us to suffer.
Some of this comes from our enemies and the enemies of the faith. Some of it comes from living in the world but not of it. Some of it comes our own poor choices. Where it comes from is not nearly as important as how we handle it. My parents often told me that I could not control the things that came my way but I could control how I responded to them. They spoke this in the context of the faith they imparted to me in word and example. Our faith is not in a consolation prize after a life of defeats but in the prize we grasp hold of in the midst of suffering. Endurance is victory -- and endurance is created by faith. Faith is not ivory tower or fairy tale believing but believing and living this faith amid real world hurts, pains, sacrifices, and costs.
Bearing the cross is not the choice of a reasonable soul and mind. It is accessible only by faith -- the soul and mind under the grace of Christ and shaped by the life of Christ. We come to confession and absolution not only because we continue to sin and need grace. We come so that we may be freed from their weight and from the load of guilt so that we can put our full energy into wearing the cross and bearing the cross. We come to the Lord's Table to be strengthened in our weakness, to be made strong in our frailty, so that we might endure. He who endures to the end shall be saved. By these words Jesus reminds us that Christian life is not some easy slide into home plate but it is the wary wisdom of knowing our enemy, knowing the weakness of our flesh, and, at the same time, knowing Christ whose strength is made perfect in us. We come to be renewed in this strength and refreshed for our lives of witness, worship, prayer, and service.
As Lutherans we must become as adept at wearing and bearing the cross as we are preaching the cross.
But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.
—2 Peter 3:18
—2 Peter 3:18