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Have you ever participated in the Stations of the Cross? If you’re a Christian, you should. It is a spiritually enriching and challenging experience. If you’re not a Christian, you’ll still find it an interesting and possibly moving experience. The Stations of the Cross is an exercise in following Jesus as he moves toward his crucifixion. The First United Methodist Church offers the opportunity to engage in this exercise from Tuesday, April 16 through Good Friday, April 19 from 3:00-7:00 p.m. and Saturday from 9:00 a.m.-noon in the sanctuary. Artists from the church and community have provided wonderful visual representations of the various stations. I am privileged to be the author of devotions, written in verse, for each station. The cross is a central symbol for the Christian church. We see it prominently displayed in and on many sanctuaries. The cross is a central symbol of the Christian faith because of its vital role in a central tenet of that faith: Jesus Christ died on the cross so we might be forgiven for our sins. Most Christians have heard a lot of preaching about Jesus dying on the cross for us. Such preaching is helpful and true. It is basic to the gospel message. But there is another aspect to the cross that we might not have heard quite as much preaching about. It’s an aspect that over the last few years I’ve found myself thinking, writing, and preaching about. The cross reminds us that Jesus died for us, but it also reminds us that Jesus calls us to die with him. Our calling to participate in what Jesus does on the cross is also basic to the gospel message. Jesus said, ‘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, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it.’ When we put our faith in God by whose grace Jesus died on the cross for our sins, we also commit ourselves to following him. At the heart of following him is taking up our cross, which means willingly, purposely, and actively giving up our lives as he gave up his. What does it mean to follow Jesus in taking up our cross and giving up our lives? It means always to be looking for ways to serve God by serving others. It means to put others ahead of self. It means to do whatever we can do to help the oppressed and dispossessed. It means to practice love, grace, and mercy. It means to live humbly. It means to live peaceably. Such living should permeate our attitudes, our perspectives, our motives, our words, our relationships, and even our politics. I hope you who are Christians will participate in the Stations of the Cross. I hope that as you follow Jesus to his cross, you’ll also ponder what it means to take up your cross and follow him. We all need to do better at it. I hope you who aren’t Christians will participate in the Stations of the Cross. The exercise will give you a good look at who Jesus is and what Jesus did. It will also give you some insight into who Christians can be when they really follow Jesus. (You can preview some of the artwork and devotions by following Barnesville First United Methodist Church on Facebook or by following michaell.ruffin on Instagram).

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