The Transforming Center is a community of Christian men and women focused on transforming Christian leaders so that churches and communities of faith can become places of authentic spiritual formation and transformation. Through retreats, events and resources, the Transforming Center seeks to strengthen and equip Christian leaders to be well with their soul and lead transformational ministries.
One of the resources that the Center provides is a blog that follows the lectionary and Christian year. Within this Holy Week, Rev. Canon Patrick P. Augustine shares his thoughts on Mark 8:34 “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.”
The cross means different things to different people these days. For some, it is a piece of jewelry. For others it is a sign and symbol of their commitment to Christ or their call to ordained ministry. For many Christians around the world, the cross is an experience—it takes the form of daily and life-threatening persecution. For every Christian, the beauty and brutality of the cross is the inescapable reality that confronts us during Holy Week, challenging us to consider what it means for us to follow Jesus in taking up our own cross—whatever form that may take.
Take up Your Cross
For decades, I have lived in and traveled to areas of the world where Christians are a persecuted minority. In the 1970s, I was a student in Lahore, Pakistan, when Muslim extremists desecrated the church on a Christian college campus. The building was damaged, Bibles were burned, and Christians were assaulted. This made no sense to us because the college had provided the finest education to both Christians and Muslims in Pakistan for more than a hundred years. The Christian community was outraged, and we held a rally in Lahore Cathedral to pray and express our frustration at how we, as minorities, had been treated by the majority community. Leaders of the assembly (made up of nearly 2,000 people) then marched to the governor’s house in Punjab to present a memorandum of protest.
I was asked to carry a large processional cross to lead the march. Although it was a peaceful demonstration, armed policemen repeatedly pointed their guns and batons at my chest. It was a terrifying experience at the time, but one that now seems almost mild in light of recent events. You see, it was less than two years ago on a Sunday morning in September when two Taliban suicide bombers attacked All Saints Church in Peshawar, Pakistan. The attack left 127 worshipers dead and more than 250 wounded.
In January this year I was invited to preach and celebrate Holy Communion at All Saints Church. It was a profoundly moving experience to worship on the very ground where the blood of Christian martyrs was spilled. After the service, I was approached by Mano Rumalshah, bishop emeritus of the Peshawar diocese, who presented me with an iconic Cross of Thorns. “Receive this Cross of Thorns,” he said. “Receive it on behalf of a people who carry around in their bodies the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our bodies. And please remember us in your prayers” (2 Corinthians 4:10).
Reverend Canon Patrick P. Augustine is ordained as presbyter in the Church of Pakistan. Augustine came to the United States in 1983, and he currently serves as rector of Christ Episcopal Church in LaCross, WI. He has traveled extensively, seeking to be a voice for persecuted Christians throughout the Anglican Communion. In 2013 he was recognized with the “Award of the Cross of St. Augustine,” the highest honor of the Anglican Communion.