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Where Hope is Found…and a Hard Memory

Tau CrossDevotional Thought of the day:
1  And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. 2  For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. 3  And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, 4  and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, 5  so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.    1 Corinthians 2:1-5 (ESV)

777      Yesterday I saw a picture which I liked immensely, a picture of Jesus lying dead. An angel was kissing his left hand with an inexpressible devotion. Another, at the Saviour’s feet, was holding a nail torn out of the Cross. In the foreground with his back to us there was a tubby little angel weeping as he gazed at Christ. I prayed to God that they would let me have the picture. It is beautiful. It breathes devotion. I was saddened to hear that they had shown it to a prospective buyer who had refused to take it, saying, “It’s a corpse!” To me, You will always be Life.  (1)

Alas and did my Savior bleed, and did my Sovereign die?  Would He devote that sacred head for sinners such as I?  At the cross at the cross, where I first saw the light, and the burden of my heart rolled away! It was there by faith I received my sight and now I am happy all the day.

It’s been nearly twenty years since “the discussion.”  One of my church members was quite irate.  And to be honest, I struggled to understand her complaint, and why i couldn’t get through to her why the cross, more specifically, a picture of the Jesus on the cross was not blasphemous, but rather a source of great hope, a source of great peace and comfort.

St. Josemaria’s words that I came across in my devotion this morning reminded me of that day.  The picture was simple, a picture of a Tau Cross ( the Greek Letter T being Tau) with Jesus body on it.  The passage I was preaching on was the one above in red (and the chapter before which says “we preach Christ crucified“) and all the songs were ones like the one in green above.  The Wondrous Cross, The Old Rugged Cross, At the Cross, there was a theme working, I wanted them to work through the idea that Christ died for all on that cross, and that He died for you… and for me.

Simple?

Apparently not. For the dear lady thought I was being blasphemous, picturing Jesus as if he was still there, for we know He has risen  I have in twenty years of ministry only twice seen someone more angry at me, and this just moments before church was to start, moments before we were to worship God, indeed for sending Jesus to die for us, and for the Holy Spirit uniting us to that cross. 

The next twenty-four hours were hard, I questioned myself, both my theology and my ability to communicate it.  In either case, the answer was perhaps found in my returning to work at a university, to giving up on ministry.  An old retired pastor changed that thought process, he was wondrous in his support in those days to follow.   

I still preach about Christ crucified, and if I ever stop, then I should leave the ministry.  For as St. Josemaria describes it, where others see a corpse, I see life.  It is beautiful, it speaks of Christ’s devotion to save us, a love so encompassing that He could embrace that cross for the joy set before Him. A love for sinners such as I.

In preaching about the cross, it has to include us, for owe were united to that death of Jesus there, as He hung there, as He paid for our sin, as He died to justify us,, cleanse us, and plant a seed of life in us.  It is there that the Holy Spirit brings us in our baptism, so that having died with Him, we rise with Him.

Not as an analogy, but being raised to a glorious,, holy life, being reborn, recreated as the children of God. Being brought to repentance, transformation, being able to have faith in God and His promise.  This is where our burdens are rolled away, our shame, our grief, our resentment, and pain.  It is taken there, nailed there. 

This is all there at the cross……this is given us as He died there.  This is His cross, and it is ours, again the apostle Paul describes the power, of the cross, in our lives.

5  For since we have become one with him in dying as he did, in the same way we shall be one with him by being raised to life as he was. 6  And we know that our old being has been put to death with Christ on his cross, in order that the power of the sinful self might be destroyed, so that we should no longer be the slaves of sin.
Romans 6:5-6 (TEV)

.So think on the cross, picture Jesus there, know the power of His love, HIs devotion for you, and then love and devote yourself to Him, for that relationship is what He desired, and what He saved you for in the first place.

AMEN!

 

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 2787-2792). Scepter Publishers.
Kindle Edition.

(2)  Issac Whats, At The Cross – words in Public Domain

Embracing the Cross – A Devotion for Holy Cross Day

Devotional Thought fo the Day

27 The people in Jerusalem and their leaders did not recognize Jesus as the one the prophets had spoken about. Instead, they condemned him, and in doing this they fulfilled the prophets’ words that are read every Sabbath. Acts 13:27–28 NLT

My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. Galatians 2:20 (NLT)

In the third place, the Word of God is not rightly divided when the Gospel is preached first and then the Law; sanctification first and then justification; faith first and then repentance; good works first and then grace.

For the early Christians, the Cross was primarily a sign of hope—not so much a turning back to the past as a turning forward to the coming of the Lord

Today is called in church calendars “Holy Cross Day” or Feast of the Holy Cross.

It is a day to think about the cross, and what was secured by the cross.  The redemption of the world.  My favorite sermon I’ve ever crafted is “The Parable of the Coke Can” – where life is pictured draining us, and sin crushing us, tossing us aside.  But then Christ comes along, and finds us, and seeing a value marred and hidden by sin, creates us to be something new.  He repurposes us, He redeems us, He restores us.  And what was torn aside, a broken container, is now a living chalice that God fills with His Spirit.

It is there in the cross that we are redeemed, where we are separated from the sin that had trapped us.  It was there at the cross that we also are united to Christ, to not just his death but His resurrection.

These are things the prophets foretold when they spoke about Jesus being condemned on every page, for the condemnation is the promise of the Old Covenant, the old promises that God made to man.  We have to see that painful, ugly horrid cross, and know that is our cross as well.  A cross where sin will be removed, probably painfully, as we struggle with it. A cross that is brutal, it leaves no sin covered, it strips them from us, even as the flesh was stripped from Christ’s back.

The Law crushes us to that cross, even as the gospel there gives us the promise of life. No, not even as the gospel gives.  It crushes us there so that the Gospel can give us life.

The last thought, the one in green from Pope Benedict XVI is that which I want to leave you with this morning.  That the cross was not seen as something to look back upon constantly for the early church.  It was what caused them to be able to look forward, to look at each day as something the Lord created, to look forward to the day when He will return for those He rescued there at the cross. The cross in the past is what gives us the hope, the expectation of glory (Col. 1) and that God has prepared something greater than anything we’ve experienced or dreamed about.  (1 Cor 2.9)

There is a saying in the church, an old call and response so appropriate to end this post with,

Call – “We praise You, O Christ.”
Response – “For by Your cross You have redeemed the world!”

AMEN!

Walther, C. F. W., Dau, W. H. T., & Eckhardt, E. (2000). The proper distinction between law and gospel: 39 evening lectures (electronic ed., p. 2). Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House.

Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans., I. Grassl, Ed.) (p. 294). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

Amazing Love… How can it be…

Thought of the Day:

“What have I done to you, Jesus, that you should love me so? I have offended you… and loved you. Loving you: this is what my life is going to be all about.” (1)

A few days ago, I wrote about the nature of sin, not just individual sin, but the kind of environment in which sin is not just temptation, but seems the only option.  Most of this boils down to a lack of trust. Not just a lack of trust in each other, but a lack of trust in God.  For if we trust in Him, then indeed, we can risk to trust in others, knowing that even if that trust is betrayed, that God can use what was meant for evil, for good.

That has been the modus operandi of God since the garden, what has been meant for evil becomes that which works for good. The greatest example of this of course, is the cross, where we put to death God, where we brutally killed Him… yet, we didn’t, He chose to embrace death, that He could embrace us, that He could love us.

We have been taught this, but do we know it?  Do we grasp this amazing love?  This magnificent mercy, this overwhelming grace?

Do we live in the peace that passes all comprehension, in which we are kept, guarded, in which our hearts and minds are protected in Christ Jesus?

if we struggle with that – may we think thoughts like this:

“In the sacrament Confession and Absilution, (2) Jesus forgives us. Christ’s merits are applied to us there. It is for love of us that he is on the Cross with his arms stretched out, fastened to the wood more by the Love he has for us than by the nails.”  (3)

Lord, have mercy, and help us to comprehend the power of that mercy and share it with those who need it as much as us.

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 898-900). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
(2)  Original said “Sacrament of Presence” – edited for the understanding
(3)  Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 863-866). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

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