Time seems to pass so quickly. It feels like it was just yesterday when we were getting ourselves ready for Advent and Christmas. Now, with Mardi Gras behind us, we are beginning our Lenten journey, making our way with Jesus to the Cross on Good Friday. From the early days of the church, there was a season set aside so that Christians would be properly prepared for a meaningful celebration of Easter. It is tempting to fast forward to the Easter portion of the story of our faith. After all, it is the best part! But, without Good Friday, Easter does not make sense. We cannot skip the Cross of Jesus.
People have them in their homes or wear them as jewelry or put them on their vehicles. They can be reminders of faith, of salvation, of discipleship. Someone once commented that they can be magnificent works of art, or they can be mere trinkets, fashion statements, bling. Crosses.
There is a story told about Clarence Jordan, author of the Cotton Patch New Testament translations and founder of the Koinonia community in Georgia. A friend of his, who was pastor of a large congregation, was showing Jordan his congregation’s newly built sanctuary. It featured pews made of imported wood, beautiful stained glass, a grand pipe organ and other elegant finishes. Stepping outside, he pointed to the steeple, where a spotlight illuminated a large gold cross. “‘Dr. Jordan, that cross alone cost us $10,000.’” Jordan looked up at the cross, looked back at his host, and said, “‘You know, my friend, there was a time when crosses were free.’”
Someone presented to a group of us a compelling image of the Gospel as it relates to the cross. We were asked to imagine two cliffs separated by a great chasm. On one side was written “humanity”; on the other was written “God”. The space, the chasm between God and humanity was labeled sin, because it is our sin that separates us from God. (Remember, sin speaks of our human condition. We commit sinful actions because we are sinners. And it is our sinful human condition that separates us from God.) Over the eons, we have tried any number of ways to bridge the gap between God and ourselves. Some of the ways include religion, with specific acts of devotion or piety or ritual. Other bridges go by the name “Good Works.” The one thing these bridges have in common is that they ultimately can’t bridge the chasm. All of these bridges of our own making ultimately fall short.
The Good News in all of this is that we have nothing to prove to God. You see, it is not our bridges that bridge the chasm between God and us – it is the cross of Christ. The final image was of a cross bridging the chasm. “Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?” Paul asks the Corinthians….that a cross, this instrument of death, would be transformed by God into a means of giving life and hope to the world. As we make our Lenten journey over these next forty days, I would encourage you to pause and reflect upon the power of the cross.
So I’ll cherish the old rugged cross, Till my trophies at last I lay down; I will cling to the old rugged cross, And exchange it some day for a crown.
Rev. Barrett Ingram