We Have an Ugly Cross in Our Midst This Lent
We Have an Ugly Cross in Our Midst This Lent
What man-made thing is now in heaven?
The answer is the scars in Jesus’ hands, feet and side.
After they had nailed him to the cross… Matthew 27:35a. My favorite account of the Holy Week story is found in Matthew. I believe it gives us the most insight into this crazy yet beautiful and tragic story of what happened. Yet Matthew only gave eight words to the nailing of Jesus to the cross. Probably because crucifixions were so common back in Matthew’s day.
It was Rome’s personal choice of capital punishment for crimes of insurrection against Rome. A person could hang in agony for days for the crime thus serving as a reminder to everyone who witnessed what awaits them if they dare come against the authority of Rome. The crucifixion was designed to be public entertainment—as violent and visibly suffering that it is.
Are we also entertained by violence? Should we be entertained by violence?
Two thousand years later we have beautified that cross. It adorns beautiful necklaces—often given as a sentimental gift from an important person in your life. That cross carries a lot of meaning. It is a bright light on the building of many of our churches—lighted up for all to see that we are a church, a city on a hill, an identifier that we are Christian. Not as a symbol of capital punishment.
1 Corinthians 1:18 says The message of the cross is foolish to those who are headed for destruction! But we who are being saved know it is the very power of God. To some it is foolishness. You probably have had experiences with people who consider you foolish for you embracing the cross. But for you it is the very core of your second chance, your redemption, the possibility of your entire life. Until life gets in the way and we forget about this cross.
We have an ugly cross in the midst of our Sunday worship these next few weeks. Yes it is Lent and we are preparing ourselves for Holy Week and the joyous event that changed the world --the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Ideally it would be great to have the cross in the middle of ordinary life all of the time. A big ol’ ugly cross so that we may even trip over it. This would be a good reminder when we are tempted to make those lazy and stupid decisions that lead our lives into a mess we never needed.
For Lent I gave the staff this simple and beautiful book, Liturgy of the Ordinary: Sacred Practices in Everyday Life. In practical words the author spilled out the daily ordinariness of our faith. Much of the Christian life is returning over and over to the same work and the same habits of worship. We need to make the same brave decisions again and again and again. The work of repentance and faith is daily and repetitive.
Here is a quote from this book:
“A sign hangs on the wall in a New Monastic Christian community house: “Everyone wants a revolution. No one wants to do the dishes.” I was, and remain, a Christian who longs for revolution, for things to be made new and whole in beautiful and big ways. But what I am slowly seeing is that you can’t get to the revolution without learning to do the dishes. The kind of spiritual life and disciplines needed to sustain the Christian life are quiet, repetitive, and ordinary. I often want to skip the boring, daily stuff to get to the thrill of an edgy faith. But it’s in the dailiness of the Christian faith—the making the bed, the doing the dishes, the praying for our enemies, the reading the Bible, the quiet, the small—that God’s transformation takes root and grows.” ― Tish Harrison Warren, Liturgy of the Ordinary: Sacred Practices in Everyday Life, p. 35
It is in the dailiness of the Christian faith that the cross needs to be with us. Hanging around our necks. Beautifully stitched on our Bible covers. A beautiful digital picture on our devices. But most importantly so central to our lives that we trip over it.
For Lent this big ol’ ugly cross will be central to our worship times together for this very reason. We cannot forget that there is no Easter without Lent, no Sunday without Friday.
Something else about this ugly cross. A cross has never created scars before. Because the one hanging on the cross is not supposed to live. This is our hope. This is the Christian hope. This is the core story of my life.
Join us as this ugly cross moves central to our worship and then becomes the very picture of Easter and more importantly, the very picture of our redeemed and beautiful lives. Take this journey with us.