Tuesday, 6 September 2016
We adore you most holy Lord Jesus Christ
Here and in all your churches throughout the world and we bless you for by your holy cross you have redeemed the world
The prayer of Francis on entering a church, and no doubt at other times too.
We begin nearly every service with this prayer
But what is the cross of Christ? It may seem a strange question but I wonder now if there are various answers that can be given here.
I was with someone recently talking about the cross and I found it interesting to hear what they were reflecting. There was talk of the difference between a crucifix and a cross, and for the person I was speaking to the meaning for each was different.
Of course for the early Christians there was no difference for I am sure that whatever form of Cross was seen it symbolized horror and torture and oppression. There could be no cross with any message of good news.
It could be therefore that we can see a distinction between the death of Jesus and the cross of Jesus.
We are very aware that the symbol of the cross was not actually used by the church until quite late, but that once it became used it quickly became more than symbol of a Christian but actually a symbol of Faith and very much part of devotion and prayer.
By the time the gospels were written the idea of the cross was very keenly in people’s minds. In fact the shadow of the cross and the light of Resurrection is deliberately present in all that is said or written about Jesus.... simply because it was and is such a decisive event for the gospel writers.
Take Johns Gospel alone.
All the signs throughout the gospel lead the eye to the cross.
John cleverly describes each sign in turn. He begins by actually saying “this is the first sign” (Cana) then he says this is the second sign later in Chapter 4 (healing of centurion servant.) The healing of the blind man is the 3rd, the feeding of the 5,000 is number 4. The man born blind is 5 and the raising of Lazarus is 6.
Six carefully mapped out signs in the first section of the Gospel and the 7th the most important one is the crown of all... the crucifixion itself.
John had planned his gospel around the creation story, the six days of creation, and the fulfilment of it with the
It is in his seventh sign that the full glory of God is seen, the completion of the new creation. The word has become flesh and we have seen the glory.
Christ is lifted high on the cross. The moment of exaltation and glory. The moment of the revelation of God to the chosen people, just as we are told Moses lifted the serpent to bring healing to the wandering Israelite in the desert.
The cross is for the Christian the supreme work of Love, it symbolizes the yearning of Love of a creator for the creation. For you and for me. (Poster I love you)
It is sometimes hard to think of the love of God. A creator God is not so difficult, and even a Judging God is often seen, but to see A God who looks on a rebellious people and loves it so much that the agony is taken to himself. This is the sign of the cross.
In the Sunday School last week they were thinking about “Friends of Jesus” and particularly St Theresa of Calcutta who was canonised last Sunday, known affectionately as Mother Theresa. They were considering how even these people were not perfect and there was darkness there too. We all have darkness and the children could understand this point.
The cross is Johns 7th sign of the new creation. It is there we are seeing the Glory of God.
So the cross is so much more than crucifixion. The cross makes the most profound statement in the story of the good news, and in consequence has been used in Art to say many things.
The cross is not the sign of death, neither it is a just a reminder of the death of Jesus. It is the sign of new life too, a recreation, the fulfilment of who we are created to be. In the Cross and through Christ we are made afresh, we take on again the image of Gods glory. Yes a sign of love and redemption.