Merciful God, Your Son, Jesus Christ, was lifted high upon the cross that He might bear the sins of the world and draw all people to Himself. Grant that we who glory in His death for our redemption may faithfully heed His call to bear the cross and follow Him, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. AMEN!
Read St. John 12:20-33
I have no doubt that you have encountered more than a few crosses during the course of your life; whether it be a cross in your homes, or a cross in a church or a chapel, or even an unintentional cross that would otherwise go unnoticed by many.
Well today, I would like to reflect on three crosses in particular that have made an impression on me over the years as we contemplate this Church festival so aptly named Holy Cross Day.
The first cross that sticks with me is the processional cross in the small church which I was raised in, in the Bronx. I am very familiar with this cross as I have probably carried it more than anyone else, serving as crucifer basically every Sunday through high school and college.
Including the pole it sat on and the cross, it was about 7 feet from floor to top. The pole
was just a wood rod, but the cross that topped it was brass, and therefore quite heavy.
Of the many crosses that adorned the church and the adjoining school, that one was my favorite because it was brass. I never was a big fan of Lent growing up, because during Lent the tradition of the congregation was to drape all the crosses in purple, thus covering up that brass; but oh how glorious it was on Easter Sunday morning, when the purple drapes were removed and the lights glistened off of that mighty brass cross.
The second cross that sticks with me is the altar cross in the Chapel of St. Timothy and St. Titus on the campus of Concordia Seminary in St. Louis. When I first went to chapel, I actually did not see it for quite a while. But I remember looking at that massive stained glass window that sits behind it and wondering why there seemed to be something breaking the pattern of the window. There was the dividing pattern of the frame, but there was something else that was intersecting with the plates of glass in the window.
Finally, after staring at it for weeks, I finally realized that there was this bizarre looking cross hanging down from the ceiling in front of the window. If you knew that it was there, you could see the cross every time, but there were days, particularly in the afternoon when the sun was shining in, when you just had to trust that the cross was still there.
The third cross that sticks with me is the cross that is in the basement of the congregation that I serve, and this cross comes up into the sanctuary during Lent and Easter. You are probably familiar with it, because it is a cross that is seen in many churches, as it was made from two Christmas trees many, many years ago. This particular cross serves as a
wonderful reminder of our Lord’s Passion during the season of Lent; but the problem with it is that there is just no good way to move it around. It is big and heavy and cumbersome,
especially when bringing it up and down the stairs from the basement. I have learned over the past few years, that it is best to find a member of the youth group to move it so I do not have to.
I describe these crosses because they are truly what the cross is to each of us during this earthly life. The cross is that bright and glorious thing that we set on a pedestal and put in the center of the room and boldly declare that this is the great symbol of our Christian faith. When life is going good and things are going our way, we want the absolute biggest, boldest cross we can find.
But the cross is also that thing that is sometimes hard to see. We know it is there, but
sometimes we just have to believe it is there because it becomes clouded by the things of this world. When terrorists attack, when natural disasters strike, when the economy continues to suffer, it seems as though the cross is far from us. The cross becomes blocked by the attacks of the devil and his angels on us. Yet we know the cross remains ever present and near us, even when we cannot always see it there.
And finally the cross can also be a burden, because there are many days when we would like to cast off the cross and do all those sins that are freely offered by the world. And yet, when we try to make the leap and commit those forbidden sins, there is the cross reminding us that we are children of our heavenly Father and have been called upon to resist those temptations of the flesh that pursue us.
Of course there is one more cross that has made an impression on each of us, both literally and figuratively. In the waters of Holy Baptism the sign of the cross was made upon our foreheads, marking us as children of God, who have been redeemed from the fires of hell.
It is this last cross that was first made upon us in Holy Baptism that forever reminds us of what those fancy crosses, and those mysterious crosses and those burdensome crosses all point to: that upon the cross extended, we see our Lord was suspended; freely taking upon Himself the shame and the blows and bitter death.
He hangs there not on a cross of brass; not on an invisible cross; and not even on a Christmas tree cross; but on a real cross outside of the real city of Jerusalem, where he took away the real sins that clung to you, so that you might see those other crosses and know that your salvation was secured upon a most holy cross.