Associate Editor’s Note: This came across a little earlier today. Pastor Karl Hess is a friend of mine that I got to know during Field Work at seminary. He has some great wisdom to share. His blog name may be long and hard to recognize, but he has wise words to share.
Here is his most recent posting:
The heart of a man changes his countenance, either for good or for evil.
The sign of a good heart is a cheerful countenance: withdrawn and perplexed is the laborious schemer.
Happy the man whose mouth brings him no grief, who is not stung by remorse for sin.
Happy the man whose conscience does not reproach him, who has not lost hope.
Sirach 13:24-25, 14:1-2
I hate fake happiness, especially among Christians. There’s a reason why people laugh at Ned Flanders on the Simpsons.
Christians are called to carry the cross…but not constantly moan under the cross. I speaks as one who has done more than his share of moaning.
The two are supposed to go together–joy and the cross. Not fake joy that pretends like everything is okay. But Jesus said, “My yoke is easy and my burden is light.” His yoke, of course, being the cross, following in the way of the cross.
Following Jesus to death; crucifying the flesh, suffering. This is Baptism. Confessionalist Lutherans have done well to emphasize, “You are baptized! Make the sign of the cross and invoke the name of the Trinity and remember you are baptized! Christ is for you! Your sins are forgiven!” But some of us have done a poor job with the crucifixion and burial part of Baptism.
I’m speaking of myself here. A lot of long faces, complaining, frowns, and terrible, godless seriousness.
It’s as if the whole carrying the cross thing is a surprise. Oh dear God, what a self-important martyr I am. I hope there aren’t any others in the ministry. Seriously.
So I repent.
I am baptized which means, to be certain, that I have to die daily. I am baptized, and this also means that I am raised with Jesus. Everything is new for me. All the troubles that I have have been overcome by my Lord. They’re like a bike tire with a hole in it, leaking air.
I’m like a billionaire’s son who has had his dad pay his way through life. Yeah, there is pain and sin and ugliness in my life, and yet–I will never taste the second death on account of my Lord. The worm that never dies, the fire that is never quenched, the weeping and gnashing of teeth that I so richly deserve–I’ll never drink any of that cup–only little baby sips from the chalice of suffering, and only for a few more decades. Instead, my Lord was crushed and damned and condemned and thrown out.
I have not had a happy face under the cross because I disbelieve the things my Lord tells me. Or I don’t pay attention.
Oh Jesus, teach me to rejoice, to bear your yoke which is easy and light instead of the heavy yoke I make for myself; help me to consider my present sufferings not worthy to be compared with the glory which will be revealed when you appear, to believe that my light and momentary affliction is working for me a weight of glory beyond all comparison, to look not to the things that are seen, but those that are unseen, to set my heart on You and not on things on the earth. Amen.