Come and see the wonders of God; his acts for humanity are awe-inspiring. Psalm 66:5 (CSBBible)
For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.
1 Corinthians 11:26 (CSBBible)
When we journey without the cross, when we build without the cross, when we profess Christ without the cross, we are not disciples of the Lord, we are worldly; we may be bishops, priests, cardinals, popes, but not disciples of the Lord.
When somebody inquired whether a person [under the papacy] would be saved if he had not embraced this teaching of ours, he [Martin Luther] replied, “I really don’t know. God might have had regard for his baptism. This could do it. Even so, I have seen many [monks] die with a crucifix held before their eyes [as was then customary]. In spite of everything else, the name [of Christ] proved to be effective on their deathbed.”
When Jesus comes to the soul in Holy Communion, he brings to it every grace, and specially the grace of holy perseverance. This is the principal effect of the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar, to nourish the soul that receives it with this food of life, and to give it great strength to advance unto perfection, and to resist those enemies who desire our death.
Most of my college professors were focused on reading, studying, and preaching the Bible verse by verse. That is called exegetical preaching. Exegesis is the art of drawing the message from the text. All the professors taught this way, except one, my preaching professor. He would criticize me to no end, saying that “unless you preach the gospel, you may have given a good message, but you haven’t preached. And that gospel requires you to bring them to the cross. (Doug Dickey, multiple times in 1984-1986. He wanted you to include God’s grace, God’s love, God’s mercy, and if you didn’t – back to the library you went until you did!
I think that needs to be a rule, not only for preaching but for worship. We need to bring the people of God to the cross – We need to be there as well! Oh, do those who preach and lead worship need to come to the cross! We need to see with the Psalmist – the wonders of God as He acts on our behalf! We need to see Him take on death and destroy it! We need to see Him triumphant over our sin! That is why the Lord’s Supper explains the giving of Christ’s Body and His Blood shed for us! The entire service needs to focus there to journey with the cross throughout the week!
The cross needs to be there; the sermon and the sacrament need to draw us to Jesus! Look at the monks Luther describes, as they die, they just wanted to focus on the crucifix, to be in awe of God’s love for His people.
Can you preach verse by verse and still proclaim the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus? I believe so, but will the cross and the resurrection be your primary focus? The same question may be asked to those who preach topically,
who do a series on marriage or faith. Or those who preach from the pericope, the rotation of verses over 1 or 3 years. You must go to the scriptures, see how they point to Jesus, and work on that passage until you figure out how! The same as the worship service is formed, how does each song, each reading, each prayer draw people into Christ and make them more aware of His love! Of course, the decision on whether to offer commune fits there as well! Where else is the work of God as manifest at that moment, as people commune with the Body and Blood of Christ? (1 Cor. 10:16)
It is not preaching unless Christ crucified is revealed, nor is it worship if we are not brought to that cross in awe and celebrate that death was for us. This is why we gather… this is the refreshment given. It is time to celebrate!
Pope Francis, A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings, ed. Alberto Rossa (New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis, 2013), 125.
Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 54: Table Talk, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 54 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 87–88.
Alphonsus de Liguori, The Holy Eucharist, ed. Eugene Grimm, The Complete Works of Saint Alphonsus de Liguori (New York; London; Dublin; Cincinnati; St. Louis: Benziger Brothers; R. Washbourne; M. H. Gill & Son, 1887), 224.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
13 If it seems we are crazy, it is to bring glory to God. And if we are in our right minds, it is for your benefit. 14 Either way, Christ’s love controls us. Since we believe that Christ died for all, we also believe that we have all died to our old life. 15 He died for everyone so that those who receive his new life will no longer live for themselves. Instead, they will live for Christ, who died and was raised for them. 16 So we have stopped evaluating others from a human point of view. At one time we thought of Christ merely from a human point of view. How differently we know him now! 17 This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! 2 Corinthians 5:13-17 (NLT2)
775 Lord, if it is your will, turn my poor flesh into a crucifix.
22 We urge you, however, to confess and express your needs, not for the purpose of performing a work but to hear what God wishes to say to you. The Word or absolution, I say, is what you should concentrate on, magnifying and cherishing it as a great and wonderful treasure to be accepted with all praise and gratitude.
23 If all this were clearly explained, and meanwhile if the needs which ought to move and induce us to confession were clearly indicated, there would be no need of coercion and force. A man’s own conscience would impel him and make him so anxious that he would rejoice and act like a poor miserable beggar who hears that a rich gift, of money or clothes, is to be given out at a certain place; he would need no bailiff to drive and beat him but would run there as fast as he could so as not to miss the gift.
There are some that would say I am not quite normal, and I think they might be on to something!
But beyond that, there is a certain part of Christianity that doesn’t make sense, that does seem crazy, that is beyond our ability to reason out.
This idea that perfection comes not from discipline and self-correction and an unbending will, but through facing our brokenness, and being compelled to let Jesus deal with it, to let him have it as He hangs on the cross. To let Him draw us into the suffering and death on the cross, , that we can know the peace and healing that only comes from seeing the body, broken for us, and the blood, poured out that we would be cleansed by it.
What was once a torture for Luther, (and Staupitz whom he confessed to!) hours in the confessional trying to get free of his sin which shattered his life, confessing his lies, and lust, his envy, and anger. He couldn’t find relief for it, and he mistook the sacrament of confession for a chance to atone for his sin, to be beaten up for the things he thought and said and did that were wrong.
Then he realized that this was a sacrament, a moment where God would come, and bring us through Christ’s death on the cross, through His death, so that we could be renewed, that we could be re-born. Confession and absolution as a blessing rather than a curse, Death with the promise of being made anew, without the brokenness, without the guilt and shame, but a new life dwelling in peace.
It may seem illogical, it may seem counter-intuitive, it is definitely scary at first, but allowing our sin to be nailed to the cross, as crazy as it seems, is a source of hope, a source of healing. Not because of our action, but because of His presence and promise., because of His love and mercy, because this is where we find hope for healing and for eternity.
If it sounds crazy, blame the craziness on me, yet still, know this. God is with you, and you can give Him everything, the good, the bad, the horrid, and at the cross, it will be taken care of, and you will know peace! AMEN!
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1790-1791). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (pp. 459–460). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.
Devotional 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.
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.
(1) Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 2787-2792). Scepter Publishers.
(2) Issac Whats, At The Cross – words in Public Domain
Devotional Thought of the Day:
23 So when we preach that Christ was crucified, the Jews are offended and the Gentiles say it’s all nonsense. 1 Corinthians 1:23 (NLT)
20 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. 21 I do not treat the grace of God as meaningless. For if keeping the law could make us right with God, then there was no need for Christ to die. Galatians 2:20-21 (NLT)
70 You asked me if I had a cross to bear. And I answered, “Yes, we always have to bear the Cross.” But it is a glorious Cross, a divine seal, the authentic guarantee of our being children of God. That is why we always walk along happily with the Cross.
For some it is a piece of jewelry, or an art piece, and artifact.
For others, it is something they do not want to face, so they remove them from homes and sanctuaries. They may say it’s divisive, or that they are afraid of it becoming and idol. Even a barren cross is seen as too close, and so they are removed, taken away, hid in a closet or irreverently thrown in a dumpster.
But there is something about a crucifix, about looking at a portrayal of a body wracked with pain, the crown of thorns, the nails through the wrists and ankles, the eyes that through the pain look out upon us.
The reason for the cross.
To make us the people of God,
This is what God the Father gave the son to endure, because He loves us……
This is what Jesus endured, hating its shame, but for the joy set before Him…. the joy of seeing us rise with Him.
This is what the Holy Spirit testifies to, the very power of the gospel that can save us all…..
Christ dying for us… and His crucifixion – the place where we died to sin…. the place where the promise comes home, we have risen with Him as well.
As i go through this life, as I see the effect of sin devastating marriages, crushing families, as I see the challenges of this broken world strike us with disease, as I see us choose, again and again, to tear down, to let resentment build, to seek after something that will quench our pain for the moment, whether it be sex or drugs or the latest television binge. Escapes that mean little but a moment away. We need something more substantial, something more enduring.
We need to remember when God came into our lives, dwelt among us, and the glory of God, displayed on a cross. The love of God so incredible, so unbelievable, so needed. I need to stop and meditate on the wondrous love that would drive him there, to deliver us from all that assails us. Crosses, crucifixes serve to call us to that point, to remember the love of God…. to remember His work – even now at work in us.
It is “the” game changer, that brings light to darkness, that dispells evil, that brings peace into chaos.
I don’t think we need less reminders… but perhaps far more.
Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 514-517). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional thought of the day… as we prepare for Holy Week:
14 As for me, may I never boast about anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. Because of that cross, my interest in this world has been crucified, and the world’s interest in me has also died. 15 It doesn’t matter whether we have been circumcised or not. What counts is whether we have been transformed into a new creation. 16 May God’s peace and mercy be upon all who live by this principle; they are the new people of God. Galatians 6:14-16 (NLT)
Over the years, I have had a number of people who ask me why I, a “protestan” pastor (which I do not consider myself to be – but that’s another conversation) wear a crucifix more often than I wear a cross. Its the same reason the Sunday of Christ’s Passion – the celebration of the depth of His love, is so much more than Palm Sunday…
My answer is simple – it is where my hope is founded, it is what makes a difference in my life, it is what sustains me, as I face the crap of this world, the sin and trauma that just can rip your heart apart, and the sin and trauma that is my own, which then crushes that heart, with the force a sledgehammer.
It is why the drama of Palm Sunday, when the masses are crying out Hallelujah – and Hosanna, and Blessed is He that comes in the name of the Lord, is so ironic, and in a way painful. I can’t but hear under the praises, the same voices starting their other cry, the one that will call for this same man to be crucified, to be tortured and killed. There is great irony in that, in the second cry, as it is heard and acted upon, they will realize the glorious nature of God’s love.
It is why I would rather cling to an old rugged crucifix, than just an old rugger cross. For in baptism – I am joined to Christ there as Paul talks about in Romans 6 and Colossians, It is there at the cross – that a circuimcision of my heart takes place, as God separates my sin and all unrighteousness from me, as He signs adoption papers, as He declares me justified, as I receive the most incredible gift, as I enter into fellowship with the Holy Spirit.
Why do I wear a crucifix more than I wear a cross?
Simple – I desperately need to remember He died for me… and as I share in His death, so too I share in His new life.
That He has had mercy on us,,,, despite the cross.
2 Let us keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, who leads us in our faith and brings it to perfection: for the sake of the joy which lay ahead of him, he endured the cross, disregarding the shame of it, and has taken his seat at the right of God’s throne. Hebrews 12:2 (NJB)
- THE PALM AND THE PASSION: HOMILY FOR THE PALM SUNDAY Rev. Fr. Boniface Nkem Anusiem PhD (frbonnie.wordpress.com)
- PALM SUNDAY and HOLY WEEK (wtmcclendon.wordpress.com)
- The cross isn’t a fashion statement, it’s a passion statement (quinersdiner.com)