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Friends in Christ,
The Lord be with you.

As we begin Holy Week our devotion for this Holy Monday is an excerpt from Rev. Harold Senkbeil's book Dying to Live: The Power of Forgiveness. The subtitle and theme of this section is life "Under the Cross."

Life and death. These are the two realities in which we live as baptized children of God. We bear the sign and the seal of the crucified Lord; we are marked with His cross. Buried with Jesus by our baptism into His death, we are also risen with Him into His new life. This reality of life in the face of death is the essence of Christianity. But in this world it remains a hidden reality. For now we live by faith.

One thing is clear. Since Christianity is a matter of both life and death, those who hope for a life of ease as a child of God deceive themselves. The Lord of life has entered this world of death, and that means there’s a life-and-death struggle going on in this dying world of ours. Jesus Christ makes it clear that everyone baptized into Him will live the life of a combat soldier. The entire Christian life in this world is lived on a battlefield. Christ has won the victory, to be sure. But that victory remains hidden to the human eyes. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, and then you also will appear with him in glory. (Colossians 3:3–4)

One day, when God rings down the curtain on the entire drama, these hidden realities will be evident to all. But not now. For now, we live by faith. And since we live by faith, our life in this world bears the sign of the cross.

The cross of Christ cuts two ways, since it is a matter of both life and death. First, it means the life of Jesus Christ is exchanged for death. Therefore His cross is our joy and hope. But the cross that brings us the life of Christ also means the death of our sinful nature. And death is never a pleasant experience. Through hardship and affliction, our Lord leads us to take a hard look at our sin, which means He leads us to sorrow and repentance.

This is where you and I usually bail out. It’s okay as long as things are going along fine in our lives, but when the going gets tough we often say, "Thanks, Jesus, but no thanks. This is where I get off." Yet our Lord makes it clear that tough sledding is to be expected in the Christian's life: “If anyone would come after me he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me." (Matthew 16:24)

How easily we forget! The cross of Christ is God's life-giving instrument. There was no way to live for Him except through death. Christ’s way is by definition the way of the cross. But it is not our natural way. Left to ourselves, you and I continually choose the path of glory; we’d much rather have strength, power, and prestige than weakness, suffering, and affliction. Yet only one route leads to life. Our way promises life, yet finally delivers only death. Christ’s way leads right through death into life. The way of the cross is the only road to life in this dying world.

Let us pray,
Almighty God, Your Son willingly endured the agony and shame of the cross for our redemption. Grant us courage to take up our cross daily and follow Him wherever He leads; though Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen. (Collect for Proper 17, Series A)

The almighty and merciful Lord, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, bless and preserve you. Amen

Blessed Holy Week,
Pastor Shawn Nettleton

Rev. Shawn Nettleton is Senior Pastor at Saint John’s Lutheran Church. You can reach him in the church office, by email at or at 970-305-2420.