Friday, March 29, 2013

The Life Giving Cross

G.K. Chesterton wrote that “it is not that Christianity has been tried and found wanting; rather Christianity has been found difficult and left untried.” This is a sad reflection of how the good news of Christ's death on the cross has been misunderstood and misrepresented. Indeed, Good Friday is “not a time for theorising about how we can be saved by God's love on the cross.” It is a time to remember, reflect and to experience the wonder of God's love for us through the suffering and death of Jesus Christ on the cross.

At the close of the Good Friday service in the morning at Queenstown Lutheran Church, a large wooden cross was carried in through the sanctuary, slowly up the center aisle, from the entrance to the altar. The congregation faced the cross during the procession and at the beginning, mid-point and end-point (at the Altar), the pastor led the congregation in the following response:

P:  Behold, the life-giving cross on which was hung the salvation for the whole world.
C:  Oh come, let us worship Him.

It was a moving reminder of the life-giving Cross of Christ. Earlier in the service, Rev Christian Schmidt made the point that the cross was used to cause a slow death with maximum pain. Indeed, in the hands of man, the cross was an instrument of torture. However, in the hands of God, it became a means of grace. Jesus was fully human when he suffered and died on the cross. On the cross, He experienced the pain of being separated from God as He cried, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?”, which means, My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?”

Jesus rose from the dead for He was fully divine and demonstrated the power of God's love over evil. The power of the resurrection gives us the hope to transcend and transform any suffering in our lives. The cross is therefore a symbol of the life giving power of God's amazing grace.

Later in the night, at the CCMC's Good Friday night service, we were reminded of the important truth that the cross has opened the way for us to come before God's throne of grace without fear or guilt. Indeed, Good Friday is a time to celebrate the good news that we can draw near to God through Christ and that we are holy and blameless because Christ is in us, our hope of glory.

As we sang the last hymn, The Power of the Cross, I was reminded of our calling to live as a forgiven people:

This, the power of the Cross:
Son of God – slain for us
What a love! What a cost!
We stand forgiven at the Cross

How foolish we are to try to draw near to God with our human efforts instead of doing so through the power of the Cross. We turn prayer into a performance instead of a time to be in God's presence and a way by which God can change our hearts. We pray for God to take away our suffering instead of waiting on God so that His power may be made perfect in our suffering.

We study the bible trying to find formulas to please God instead of enjoying the wonderful promises of God's love for us. We struggle to understand the bible instead of letting God use His Word to search our hearts so that we can understand ourselves better and to be empowered to live as children of God.

Let us give thanks for the life giving Cross of Christ. Let us draw near to God each day so that we can experience God's joy and peace in the messy and confusing world around us. For life is not about us but it is all about Christ who is in us. It is only as we seek to live in Christ that we can experience the life that is both fully human and fully divine.

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