Kindred in Christ,

Have you ever gone to therapy or a support group to help you work through grief or pain in your life? As healing has these spaces have been for me, they often cause me to look at (or pick up) unpleasant aspects of my life that I would like to otherwise ignore. Yet the reality is that to completely ignoring my pain and grief is not healthy. And it is quite healing to eventually bring these aspects of my experience to the light and receive guidance regarding what to do with my human pain.

It is likely that you have, at one point or another, heard of Jesus’ famous call to “pick up your cross and follow me” (Matthew 16:21-28). Unfortunately, this saying has been misused by some throughout history to justify human oppression and abuse. This interpretation suggests that when we see people in pain, “well, it is just their cross to bear”—as if Jesus was handing out suffering to people. Tragically, this interpretation not only leads to complacency in the midst of injustice, but it completely misses the radical call of Jesus’ invitation into discipleship.

Jon Sobrino, as well as other liberation theologians, suggest that “Jesus is not handing out crosses as a price to follow him,” rather, “Jesus is shows us what to do with the crosses [human suffering] that we already have.” Thus, Jesus joins us in our struggle, invites us to walk alongside him and others in solidarity, and guides us all. It is also important to ask, where is Jesus leading us towards as we follow him? It is not towards more crosses (for we already have those in our broken world), but it is toward liberation and resurrection!

Lent, in many ways, is like a support group with God and community. Lent invites us to pick up those painful aspects of our human existence that we would otherwise ignore. Lent also offers us needed guidance with what to do with the human pain, which would eat away at us if we had not brought them to the light. If we allow ourselves to be open to Jesus, we can carry our burdens in the context of community toward collective healing and restoration. Join us this Sunday as we reflect on this and more by continuing in our Lenten worship series, The Path Back to You. I hope to see you on FB Live!

Alongside you,

– Rev. Paul Ortiz