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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Today’s Scripture Reading | Matthew 16:24–28

Then Jesus told his disciples, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life? Or what will they give in return for their life? “For the Son of Man is to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay everyone for what has been done. Truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.” (NRSV)

Deny yourself. Why, that’s practically un-American.

We are a culture that celebrates, that exalts, the individual. One who relies on no one, who takes life by the throat and wrestles it to the ground and stands over it saying “Behold the victor!” One who does it all on their own, who owes nothing to anybody. The top dog, the winner, the alpha. How do you know whom God loves? Look at the ones who get stuff. Prosperity gospel, right?

Deny yourself?

To move from the realm of “Me! Me! Me!” to the realm of “Not me.” To sacrifice for others, and to sacrifice for others without asking whether or not they deserve it—in fact, sacrificing for others even if you’re pretty sure they don’t deserve it.

I mean, why should anyone do that? The heck with that; build a monument to yourself. Put your name on it. Put your name on everything. Why wouldn’t you do that instead?

Because everything passes, that’s why. What you do for yourself dies with you; it’s lost to time.

“And on the pedestal, these words appear: 

‘My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings; 
Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!”
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay 
Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare 
The lone and level sands stretch far away.’”

What you do for yourself is lost. What you do for others endures. That’s how you find your life, your legacy. Ministering to need without thought of deserving. Seeing “the least of these” as your equal. That’s following Christ. And if we can get to a point where we do that, we’ve got a fighting chance at seeing the kingdom of God.

Lord, give us the strength to serve others, and lift us out of the weakness that demands we serve ourselves. Help us to get out of the way and follow you. Amen.

Written by Rob Koon, Coordinator of Fine Arts

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