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A Pilgrim Band on the Path of the Cross

All of today’s readings speak of the necessity of faith, the demand that we submit ourselves to God’s will, and the hardships that this can create for us. But today’s readings do not stand by themselves, hanging in the air. They are surrounded by the community of the faithful, the mystical Body of Christ, and they are accompanied by the sacraments of baptism and communion, all held in the liturgy of eucharist, of great thanksgiving.

You have heard me say more than once that to be a Christian is to defy the expectations of the world. In the world of 2022 after 70 years of individualism as the core value of the West, we see here, today, people willing to make a commitment to give of themselves entirely for the sake of the Body, for the sake of Christ. Against the overwhelming values of corporatisation and profit, we renew our covenant to care for God’s creation. In a city where so many speak of homelessness and poverty as problems that belong to “someone else”, we recall that all people are made in the image and likeness of God. In a society that seems to be mired in selfishness and hoarding, we stand ready to promise to do all in our power to support these people in their new lives in Christ. To be a Christian is to be adopted into a way of life that does make sense when held against the rules of humanity, but is the only path that makes sense of the Kingdom of God.

Paul, in his letter to Timothy, describes the incredible experience of being called into life in Christ. He describes his vocation to be an apostle as an honour, a privilege, and a responsibility. Every Christian in every place and in every time is chosen by God to walk this path, not only for their own sake, but for what they can do for others. Even these young people being baptized today have been blessed with gifts in abundance that they will share with us and the world, helping us to see and know God better and more fully than we did yesterday.

Christians speak to one another and to the world of God’s love and grace and mercy. God’s promise of salvation, healing, and eternal life. Ours is not a gospel of fear, anger, or threats of damnation. Our good news is that we need only concern ourselves with charity, mercy, and grace because in baptism we are freed from fear of death. Death has been defeated by Christ and no longer has any claim upon us. Those chains have been shattered once and for all.

We live as pilgrims together, traveling the Christian path. We do so supporting one another, caring for one another, and in the sure and certain knowledge that our God travels with us. And we do all of this of our own free will. There is no coercion, no forced hand, no strings pulled by our God. In spite of all our best efforts for ourselves and for one another, however, our freedom leaves us susceptible to selfishness, to vainglory, to sin. There is always the temptation to briefly forget our baptismal promises, to forget one another, and to cast a curious eye down the other paths that we cross.

An aerial view of a coniferous forest covered in frost and snow with a single, narrow path through it.

There will always be other paths. And as we walk ours, which is surely no easy task, the others will be tempting diversions. There will always be a path that looks like a smoother, more comfortable walk. An easier path. A tastier path. A more fashionable path. A warmer or cooler path. A path where there is a numbness to pain, sadness, and heartbreak. A wealthier path. A more intimate, more sensual, more sexy path. A more famous path. A more powerful path.

There will always be another path and many of them will seem tempting but if they are not the paths down which our God leads us, if they are not the paths shown to us by our ancestors in the faith, by Paul and Lois and Eunice and all of the saints here in Winnipeg and even in Holy Trinity, we are called to pass them by. Not every path is for every person and we, you and I, have committed ourselves again and again to this path, the path of Christ. A commitment we make not for our own sake alone, but for the sake of the world. We commit ourselves to a path that sees us carry the light of Chfrist with us through a world that is crying out for hope in the face of fear. For a light, however small, that shines on the path when all other lights go out. Our path that leads us to eternal life where there is no sorrow, no pain, and no more death, even though our path leads us past the foot of the Cross.

This is the path to which God has called us, though it seems a stumbling block to some and foolishness to others. We have heard God’s call and chosen to follow and today we add more to our pilgrim company. We rejoice to share our lives with them and for the gifts they bring. Above all, we thank God for the good treasure entrusted to us and know that we walk with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us.

Photo by Maksim Goncharenok

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