Text: Mark 8:31-38
Our beloved friend, Beth Paschal, would often say that in her diverse social circles when she mentioned that she was a member of Pullen Memorial Baptist Church it was either a conversation starter or a conversation stopper. In her gracious, yet sometimes mischievous way, Beth would smile when she would say, “When the topic of Pullen comes up, there is no middle ground from which to proceed with the conversation.” In religious circles, conversation about the cross can elicit the same response. For those who want to talk about the cross as central to the Christian faith and the gospel message, they cannot get enough conversation about it. For them, Jesus’ death on the cross defines not only the Christian story but serves as the foundation for how they understand God, Jesus, and humanity. But for others of us, the cross and Jesus’ death on it stand as one of the more confounding and questionable aspects of the Christian narrative. Those of us who reside in this category often struggle to find the words to talk about its true purpose and meaning. In many churches this morning the message of the cross will be the focus of all that is said, sung, and prayed. And in a few other churches, the references to it will be vague and covered in a shroud of ambiguity and confusion, if not suspicion and disbelief.