“The stone the builders have rejected has become the cornerstone; the Lord has done this and it is marvelous in our eyes.  Anyone who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; anyone on whom it falls will be crushed”  Matthew 21: 42,44

“Then He Said to them all: ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.'”  Luke 9:23

So I arrive at church to be the liturgist for a service we’re holding in our larger hall.  One aspect that is different in this venue is where the cross is placed.  So as I confer with Pastor Beth about any changes brought about by our change of venue, the one she mentions is to be sure, when I go up to the stage to present my reading, to make sure I:  “don’t trip on the cross”.  You see the cross, which is about 10 feet high with a large wooden base, was positioned right at the head of the stairs and as such might be a tripping hazard if not careful.  Yet the words had barely left her mouth when we both had an immediate revelation that her warning, could and should have a much grander application then just the one brief moment and movement in that one service.

Thus let us delve deeper into our journey with Christ and the hazard and yes, even blessing tripping on or over the cross may be.  First let’s understand “tripping”.  Tripping is the process by which we are moving along a path in a purposeful, definite direction and method.  Yet that movement is suddenly impinged upon by some force or object that momentarily halts some aspect of that movement (your foot is moving forward for a step but gets stopped by a tree root sticking up).  Yet even though one part of the movement is halted, the rest of the body continues its forward momentum but is now out of balance.  The result can be anything from a momentary stumble to a catastrophic, life threatening, fall.

Okay, so how does this trip happen?  Besides slap-stick comedians, for the rest of us, a trip happens by accident.  We don’t purposely decide to stumble or fall.  Second, a trip happens often because we loose focus or suffer a temporary loss of situational awareness of our surroundings. If we see the tree root, we step over it.  If we’re focusing on the depth of the steps, we step down/up with sufficient space.

So we’ve looked at the what’s and why’s of tripping, what the heck does that have to do with Jesus Christ, the cross and our spiritual journey? Well for one, our life is about movement both physically, mentally and especially, spiritually.  We may feel that the movement is going very purposefully along a path that is smooth with few hazards.  Then, with little to no warning, we stumble.  Maybe it’s a slight skip, stutter, perhaps a stubbed toe.  But maybe, it’s a full blown, head over heals, life altering crash.  What just happened?

If the answer is:  I tripped on something, then our understanding/healing process begins.  Let’s go back to physical tripping; what’s the first thing you do after a trip?  I know, if you’re like me you look around to see if anyone else saw it, come on you know you do.  However, almost immediately you look around to see what caused you to trip.  Hopefully you do the same thing when you experience tripping along the pathway of your life.  When that stumble happens you look around to see what caused it.  Will it be possible that what you see is the cross of Jesus Christ?

Why would the cross of Christ cause me to trip?  In a way Jesus told us when He stated we must take up our cross daily and follow Him if we are to be His disciple.  To take something up and to follow Someone requires we are focused on it.  Once we lose that focus, it can become a tripping hazard.  Think about tripping on your shoelaces. This world and its leader is always trying to put up distractions to cause us to lose focus on our true path and He who we should be following on it.  It can be pains, regrets and sin.  It can be joys, triumphs and sin.  Either way, whatever the world can do to cause us to focus on something other then Christ and the cross, it will attempt. And understand this, the greater, the deeper, the more time consuming the distraction becomes, the more risk there is that we will diverge off the path, our Heavenly Father has planned for us and the more perilous our journey will become.

Thus the tripping over the cross can very well be a blessing!  Now it is true that the longer we have lost our focus on Christ and the cross, the more drastic that trip and fall might need to be to force us to focus back on the cross.

Here in lies the great risk that Jesus Christ warned about.  For you see we may stumble and fall or we may look on the path of the cross and Jesus through worldly eyes, where we see the path to fraught with obstacles and hazards and reject that path altogether.  In rejecting the path, we reject the Builder.  When we reject the Builder and go on our own path, we will eventually come upon the Cornerstone, Jesus Christ.  In rejection, whether we fall upon the Cornerstone, or the Cornerstone falls upon us, the same result will ensue; disaster.  Not because the Cornerstone, Jesus Christ, is vengeful and wants that, but because of our rejection of Him.

One final aspect of our focus on carrying our cross and following Jesus Christ.  Do not look upon the cross as purely a symbol of death and punishment.  It is meant to be a symbol of death, but that is only death of and to sin.  For the cross is empty.  Sin died with Jesus on the cross, but Christ rose again and lives to this very day.  The cross is a symbol of hope and redemption, a sign of living free through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.  The cross is not so much a weight/burden to be crushed by as a compass that keeps us on the path to blessings in this world and eternal salvation.

Dear Sisters and Brothers, we are not perfect travelers.  We will forget to pick up our cross occasionally and/or be distracted and lose focus on following Jesus Christ.  Through the Holy Spirit, who lives within us, we can strive to make those times as few as possible.  Yet when they do happen, Jesus Christ does not just continue forward, calling out:  “If you can’t keep up, to bad so sad, I guess you miss out!”. No, Jesus Christ is right there with us.  He will pick us up, brush us off, remind us that we’re not soiled by the stumble, but we are washed clean through the sacrifice of His blood.  In focusing on Jesus Christ and carrying instead of tripping over our or The cross, may your path today be smooth and your journey blessed.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, we are so thankful that You have seen fit to give us a blessed reminder in the symbol of the cross of the miraculous gift of salvation we have in Jesus Christ. We humbly confess that we get distracted by the world and forget to carry that symbol and follow Your Son.  Forgive us when we stumble and pour out Your Spirit upon us that we would refocus on taking up our cross and following Jesus.  We thank You for Your Mercy and Love which we can see and feel even in our stumbles.  That as we stand again in the Power of Jesus Christ, we will continue upon the path You have perfectly laid before us, living lives that bring honor and praise to Your Most Holy Name.  We pray in the Name of Jesus Christ. Amen