The Theology of the Cross in the Age of the Tweet

Congregational leaders from the Metro South Conference of the Rocky Mountain Synod recently gathered in Littleton to prepare themselves for the election of a new Bishop. Our current Bishop, the Rev. Allan Bjornberg, will complete his term of service this summer. An election for his successor is scheduled for April 26-28. Please keep the voting members of that assembly in your prayers. They’ve got their work cut out for them!

During that gathering, this statement was made: “The Lutheran message of Grace is not the most prevalent Christian message.” It’s true: our point of view is a decidedly minority point of view. You can find churches and organizations that describe the Gospel of Jesus Christ in much simpler terms; frankly, in much more popular terms. There are those who will assure you that God wants you to be successful; that Jesus empowers us to more effectively pursue our dreams; that Christian values and American values line up side-by-side; that Christians discover how life becomes easier with faith.

Those of us who are immersed in the season of Lent understand that these are misrepresentations of the Christian message. Jesus is tempted for 40 days in the desert. “Deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow me.” “Stop making my Father’s house a marketplace!” “Light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil.” “Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life.” These are the Gospel texts for the season of Lent, and Lutherans believe that while struggling with these texts may not be the most prevalent approach taken by Christians these days, it is the most faithful.

We worship a savior who was put to death by the political and religious leadership of his day. He calls us to follow him in giving our own lives for the world. This is neither easy, nor simple. It is not a way of living and believing that is easily boiled down to bumper stickers or 140 character tweets. But it is a way to live deeply into the promise of the Gospel, and the presence of God in our lives — and to be transformed by God’s grace.

When asked about the challenges of arts criticism in the age of social media (at a “South by Southwest” panel in Austin, Texas), Time Magazine TV Critic James Poniewozik replied, “nuance doesn’t get retweeted.” Lutherans speak of Christ and the Gospel in nuanced terms. We have very few simple answers, and even fewer easy approaches to the life of faith. You have to struggle a bit to understand our point of view. A grace-centered faith is not one that is easily or quickly embraced, especially in an age of social media. But we believe that the struggle is worth the effort, and that it leads to a faith and trust in God which has depth and power and resilience.

The season of Lent is an ideal time to dig deep, and develop a stronger foundation for faithful living. I hope the texts of this season are stretching us and challenging us. A good Lent, and a blessed Holy Week, to you all.

David J. Risendal, Pastor