Greetings Saints of the Sabetha area, in the name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
A visitor at one of our congregations recently asked me an interesting question.
“Pastor,” they said, “why all the crosses? You have a big one on the wall up front, a smaller metal one between the candles, another one with a handle in a stand beside where you speak, crosses sewed into the linen on the altar and the podiums, on the service/hymn books in the pews and you also wear another one around your neck. Then too, I noticed that you and a lot of other people do that thing, which the guy next to me said was the ‘“making of the sign of the cross” at different times during the service. What’s with all the crosses?”
A little taken aback, I admitted that he was making an important observation as I pondered how to best answer his question. As I started my explanation, I couldn’t help but wonder why I never saw that question coming. We do adorn our sanctuary with a lot of crosses, and we speak quite extensively on what they represent and how Jesus suffered and died on the cross for us, making that cross not only a reminder of the terrible pain and suffering he endured for us, but also a reminder that through Jesus’ suffering and death on that cross, our sins have been atoned for and we have been reconciled to God and welcomed back into His eternal kingdom.
Now, I don’t recall exactly how I answered the man’s question, as I often think later of things I wish I’d have thought of and said earlier, but if you are reading this, Earl, here is perhaps a better explanation than what I gave you before.
The cross is a symbol of worship for us. It is a reminder that through the suffering Jesus endured there, He became our very real and our one and only Redeemer, Savior and Lord. Sure, we wear crosses as jewelry, we stamp images of them on our books, put pictures of them on our letterhead, draw them into our logos and print them on our bumper stickers, but that cross is much more than just mere decoration – that cross is our very identity.
We say in our creeds that on that cross, Jesus Christ died for our sin and that after so dying, He rose from the dead three days later. Yes, that cross connects us to our Triune God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, through Christ. The vertical part of the cross reminds us that through Jesus’ death on it we are reconnected with God above, and the horizontal part of it reminds us that through Jesus’ death on it we are joined with all other Christians as brothers and sisters of our Savior, who after rising from the dead sent us the Holy Spirit to bring us to and sustain us in our faith in Him. That faith in Christ, and in His recorded Word, assures us that we have, by faith in Christ and our Baptism into His death, been adopted by our Heavenly father, who accepted Christ’s sacrifice on the cross as full payment for our sins.
Yes, we may think a lot about that cross, so much so that we may even seem fixated on Christ’s death there, for during worship service we remind ourselves that in our respective Baptism we are each buried with Christ into His death. But we are not fixated on His death. We just marvel at the love His death represents, and at how His cross brings the way of God home to us. There, we see God taking the whole of the human race back to himself. The dreadful scene of the crucifixion is the loving Father at work in conjunction with His Son – for us.
A few hours before His death, while in the upper room with His disciples, Jesus kind of summarized what that cross meant when he said, “In the world you have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world!”
That He did, by way of the cross, and because He did, we can be of good cheer, even amidst all the tribulation that surrounds us, for we are saved, eternally, in the name of the Father and of the (+) Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.