24 Then Jesus told his disciples, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 25 For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.
-Matthew 16:24-25, NRSV
As a nation, we approach another sobering anniversary. Tomorrow morning will mark nineteen years since the fateful events of September 11, 2001.
As we remember one national tragedy (a terrorist attack) in the midst of another (a pandemic), I’m reminded of a prayer written by Father Mychal Judge, a Franciscan priest and FDNY chaplain who was among the casualties at Ground Zero. He printed the words of this prayer on prayer cards and handed them out to whomever had need of them. The prayer reads:
Lord, take me where you want me to go.
Let me meet who you want me to meet.
Tell me what you want me to say,
And keep me out of your way.
“Lord, take me where you want me to go.” Given the circumstances in which Fr. Mychal died, those words take on less of the soft, soothing tone of “Where He Leads Me, I Will Follow”… and take on more of the deep and daunting tone of “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.”
As modern-day followers of Jesus Christ, we are called to… well… follow Jesus. We are called to follow wherever he leads. And friends… I wish I could promise that he’ll always lead us in paths that are easy, or heartening, or comfortable, or exhilarating. But in the broken and out-of-balance world, that just isn’t always the case.
That certainly wasn’t the case for Father Mychal — that much is clear by the way that he died, following Christ into a smoldering building to minister to a fallen firefighter. And yet… I don’t think Father Mychal would have taken back these prayerful words, even if given the chance.
And so, as we remember one national tragedy in the midst of another, may God grant us the courage and commitment to follow where Christ leads. To borrow Father Mychal’s words: may God take us where God wants us to go, let us meet who God wants us to meet, say what God wants us to say, and help us stay out of God’s way.
Take up your crosses, friends, and remember:
Our God is bigger than coronavirus.
Our vision is bigger than coronavirus, too.
We are people blessing people.
We are Wesley Church.
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