Carrying the COVID Cross
If carrying the cross is equivalent to suffering, there’s no doubt that we’ve been doing it. Every one of us has stories of disappointment, loss, and grieving these days. Is it any consolation to imagine that dealing with all of this may, in some way, be helping us practice Christian discipleship?
At the same time that Jesus predicts his own crucifixion, he calls for his followers to take up their own crosses. He says that doing so is absolutely necessary for anyone who wants to follow him. Peter, the most outspoken of the twelve men who Jesus has gathered around him, finds all this crucifixion talk unacceptable. It seems obvious that he is horrified at the thought of Jesus’ shameful suffering. It is also probable that he is frightened by the thought that Jesus’ end will likely bring his own. Nobody wants to suffer.
Is our current suffering a form of cross-carrying in this COVID season?
On the one hand, the suffering is real. None of us is merely imagining this. But on the other hand, the suffering that we are experiencing is nearly universal. There’s no place on earth that hasn’t been touched by this virus and many people (most of whom would not identify as followers of Jesus) are suffering in more profound ways than we are. So human suffering per se isn’t necessarily cross-carrying.
What’s the difference?
It might help if we step back and take a look at why it is that Jesus willingly takes up the cross and spends so much time talking about it. He does so for at least three reasons:
First, he takes up the cross out of obedience. The cross is his father’s will and, though it brings real suffering, Jesus’ trust in the Father goes beyond the suffering.
Second, he does so because there is joy to be found on the other side. The cross is endured because it is a means toward a greater good.
Finally, and most importantly, he does so for love. He takes up the cross, not to bring his followers into suffering but because the whole of creation is already being consumed by it. Jesus’ cross is the means by which he practices solidarity with creation. He does so out of love and somehow, this act of solidarity/love in suffering becomes the undoing, not only of suffering, but of death itself. It’s a mystery, there is no explaining it. Theologians have tried to come up with theories of how the cross of Jesus “works”, but it turns out to be many contradictory things all at once and the words fall short.
We can, however, catch beautiful glimpses of the mystery in our own experiences of sacrificial love – given and received. These days have required tireless expressions of solidarity from all of us. All of our best practices in the face of this pandemic, including this week’s decision to go completely online for classes, are not intended just to keep us safe – statistically, many of us on campus are under no lethal threat from this disease. We’re taking these steps for the sake of others. Most of the things we’re giving up are not for our good, but in service of our neighbor. They are not acts of self-preservation. They are acts of love and as such, they are crosses that we gladly bear.
In the name of Jesus.
March 3, 2021
Rev. James A. Wetzstein serves as University Pastor at Valparaiso University and takes turns writing weekly devotions.
- Archives of Devotional Writings from our Pastoral Staff
- “Some Lent!”
- (Your vocation here) of people
- A Point of Privilege
- A season of anticipation
- Advent = Hope
- All will be well
- Are we willing to cross the road for one another?
- Better Together
- Can we learn to be happy?
- Carrying the COVID Cross
- Come and See
- Did Jesus really suffer?
- Doing without in a life of plenty
- Don’t miss this moment
- Exiles with Vision
- Fear not!
- Feeling at Home
- Finding Purpose in the Journey
- Finding Words for Times Like These
- Forgiving others – and ourselves
- Getting ahead with Jesus
- Getting down on Jesus’ level
- Have yourself a merry little Christmas — somehow
- Holy Week and Taking Out the Trash
- Holy Week: The aid station late in the semester
- Hopes & Dreams vs Life in the Wilderness
- How glad we’ll be if it’s so
- I almost slipped
- In a time of uncertainty, these things are certain
- In praise of plans B … C … D …
- In Praise of Skeptical Disciples
- In the midst of grief, God will bring life
- Is there such a thing as being too forgiving?
- It’s a Three Day Weekend!
- It’s In the Bag
- It’s What’s Happening
- Killing off our future selves
- Lessons in fire building
- Let us work for real wellness in our communities
- Life Is a Highway
- Lilies and leaves and whatever else is beautiful
- Living in the Present
- O Lord, you know I hate buttermilk
- Of Fear and Failure
- On Christian Unity: When we’re not one big happy church
- On the Bucket List
- Pray and Let God Worry
- Preparing for the world to be turned rightside up
- Recovering from an Epic Fail
- Reformation calls for examination
- Remembering among the forgetful
- Seeing beauty in brokenness
- Signs of Love
- Starting Small
- Still in the storm
- Taking a Break from the Relentless
- Talking ourselves into it
- Thankfulness leads to joyfulness
- The Art of Holy Week
- The Funny Business of Forgiveness
- The Greatest of These is Love
- The Magi: Exemplars of Faith and Learning
- The Power of Small Conversations
- The Power of Taking a Sabbath
- The Spiritual Gift of Hindsight
- This can’t be done alone
- To be known
- You will be in our prayers this summer of 2020
- Ventures of which we cannot see the ending
- We had hoped
- What do you do with your anger?
- What is your base reality?
- What to do after you find your voice
- What to do on the day after
- What we know and what we don’t know
- When bad things happen
- When joy and sadness live together
- When the promise of resurrection is hard to believe
- When you offer up your broken cup
- Where God will be found
- Where is the good shepherd carrying you?
- Wilderness Journeys
- Year-end time management: Keeping the main thing the main thing
- Your Valpo roots will help you grow into your future