God Set up a Cross

By Pastor Mark Anderson  

 
The ancient world was a vast field of magnificent temples. Only symbols bespeaking power, permanence, and ultimate authority could faithfully proclaim the mystery of divinity. The gods deserved nothing less, or so thought the ancients.

Then God set up a cross.

It was forged by nameless servants of imperial authority. A bare, rude thing. A time tested instrument designed to evoke terror and coerce obedience through the application of unspeakable cruelty. Only the very worst, despised offenders suffered the fate of the crucified ones. The Romans lined roadways with them so that passers by would be forced to carry the weight of pitiful suffering and inhale the stench of rotting corpses. It was about as far from divinty as one could get.

This is the symbol of God’s presence with us?   

Yes.

God set up His cross where the four roads we travel most, meet: guilt, failure, spiritual poverty, and willful disobedience. The gift of God’s cross, the baptism into Christ’s death, is not given until I see that nothing in the world – nothing – can address my sickness unto death except this one, impossible, ridiculous sacrifice. For only by the shame, cruelty and utter godlessness of the cross can the true magnitude of our guilt be measured. The cross proclaims to us what our true position in life really is.  No wonder we flee from it for all we’re worth.

But Christ Jesus did not flee from the cross. He embraced it’s suffering and shame – for you. And three days after they laid His battered corpse to rest, God vindicated His trust and raised Him from the dead.

For Lutherans the season of Lent, therefore, is no occasion for self-conscious schemes of spiritual navel gazing or sentimental musings on self-pity and the like. Lent is no time for half-measures. You may want to give yourself some sort of moral or ethical tune-up during Lent. That’s fine. Your life might need one. But have no illusions that it will somehow earn points with God.

During Lent we return to Holy Baptism, through an active and living faith. There we remember with joy that our lives were drowned with Christ, crucified with Christ (Romans 6), and then raised with Christ. We give thanks to God who forgives our sins and who has brought all our works and all our ways under His judgment and mercy on the cross.

Through Word and sacrament God continues to set up the cross – and the empty tomb – in the center of our lives, and through them release hope and the divine power of His kingdom. And since Christ Jesus embodies hope He rightly calls us to hope – not in our efforts, will or determination, but in Him, the crucified. This is the scandal of the gospel – Jesus appears in the defenseless form of the crucified God to put an end to our pretensions to righteousness in order that we might have a righteousness based on faith. A righteousness won for us, the ungodly, through His death on the bloody cross, where the true glory of God is revealed.

 

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Mark Anderson is pastor at Lutheran-Church-of-the-Master , Corona del Mar, CA

 

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Do you notice what’s missing from Pastor Anderson’s piece?

An appeal to you to do, or think, or feelanything.

 

This is a great example of Christ centered, cross focused Christianity.

Death and resurrection. Both Christ’s, and yours…in Him.

 

Is there anything else that is needful?

 

 

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4 Responses

  1. Yeah, I sure didn’t need any “appeal.” I was held captive, both accused and pardoned.

    (I’m going to print this one out, and figure out how to express this in Japanese. I meet a lot of people who wear a cross just because it’s fashionable. If they only realized. I mean, they aren’t even Christians!)

  2. R.L.,

    What a great thing to do.

    Who knows what the Lord will do with what you give those folks?

    Thanks, R.L.!

  3. “nothing – can address my sickness unto death except this one, impossible, ridiculous sacrifice”…

    That’s so dead center, and it really resonated with something on the Mocking Bird blog today that we so need to hear:

    “To put it theologically, there is no resurrection without crucifixion. And the crisis comes to a point like this: we look within and discover that despite our transformation talk, indeed our motives are corrupt, our hearts have been wicked and our wills perverse, and we recognize that we’ve been loving self rather than God.

    . . . It’s at this point, that we’ve come to the crisis point, the point of crucifixion. We know we’re as good as dead. Condemned to a life of self-centeredness. And thus condemned to a life without God. It is only when all hope is lost, of course, that grace rears its beautiful head. Grace only emerges at the point of utter hopelessness”.

    Life, our piety, the whole scheme of things, is weighed before that one moment in history – the crucifixion – and found totally wanting. Only from there springs true life, true grace – the Redemption that is solely in the work of Jesus Christ. That is why we so need ministry that brings us constantly to this one source – Christ, His Life, Death and Resurrection, our table in this wilderness.

  4. Tetelestai !

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