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Saturday, March 23, 2013

Road to the Cross: Going Up

The Road to the Cross*” is a series of thoughts for the Lent season. These convey some of my hopes, prayers, and even fears as we traverse this season and prepare for the celebration of Easter.

“He went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem”–Luke 19:28
Confrontation takes courage, and courage is in strong demand these days.
We have traveled with Jesus and now we come to the beginning of the end.  Tomorrow in the churches, we will celebrate Palm Sunday and the coming of the new king.  But today, we focus on the fact that Jesus went up to Jerusalem and everything that goes along with it.
Jesus was one of those remarkable people who did not shy away from either confrontation or danger.  Neither did he seek it out, but he was strong enough to deal with it head on and not run away from it. 
Jesus had been warned that the people in Jerusalem had wanted him dead.  He knew that his friends would betray him, that he would be misunderstood and that ultimately he would be arrested and killed…and yet still he went.  
As I look at myself, I think I resemble the Cowardly Lion from the Wizard of Oz than William Wallace from Braveheart. What am I afraid of?  It seems like a great deal: I am scared of death, I am scared of other’s opinions of myself…I am scared of failing.  And I don’t think I’m alone in this.  I think we live in a generation of cowardly lions.  We live among a people who want take the easy way out and to make sure we are all liked, rather than standing up for what is right and true. 

Maya Angelou once said, “Courage is the most important of all the virtues, because without courage you can’t practice any other virtue consistently. You can practice any virtue erratically, but nothing consistently without courage.” It is courage that gives us the ability to stick to our guns and to do what is right.  It was courage that allowed Jesus to set his face towards Jerusalem and to engage with the Pharisees and the Jewish leaders.  
Nelson Mandela also observes, “I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”
Courage is a moral fortitude that keeps us in the game when everything around us is screaming that we should get out. Courage controls us and helps us to do what we know is necessary. 
We may think of courage on the battlefield, in the hospital rooms, and on the decks of ships.  But courage is so much more real and necessary than that.
-It takes courage to confront our brother when we know they are doing wrong.
-It takes courage to talk to our parents about their changing needs as they get older.
-It takes courage to be a parent to our children.
-It takes courage to put our families before our jobs.
-It takes courage to talk about our faith openly in a world that no longer wants to hear it. 
-It takes courage to stand in the minority when the popular mood of the country tilts towards immorality. 
Jerusalem was located on a hill and when you reached the city you had to climb up the hill. That is why in the Bible, it is always said that you “go up” to Jerusalem.  We can imagine that when Jesus reached that hill, it took every ounce of courage to get up it.  
The road to the cross goes up to Jerusalem.  Up there, there is confrontation, hatred, and even death.  In order to get to the cross, we have to go there.  Do we…do I…have the courage to go up?

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