Friday, April 9, 2010

Meditation on the Cross of Christ

As I meditate upon the cross today I am drawn to the image of Jesus as the great prophet king who has ended his ministry and come to Jerusalem to claim his rightful seat upon the Temple mount; replacing the rulers of this world, freeing us from the rulers of this world -- who are corruption, power, greed and self-interest. In fact Jesus comes to take his rightful place as ruler of our hearts and minds and souls, freeing us from ourselves and our disordered lives.

It is an exodus moment for Jesus and an exodus moment for the whole creation.

It is a moment in which victory is won; death and all the corrupt powers of this world are overthrown.

It is a moment in which we see that evil no longer will have power over us; that we are ultimately freed from the bondage of sin and the bondage of death, the shackles of our own creating.

In the very earliest accounts and faith stories of Jesus handed down in our tradition, his death was understood as a saving act.

The Jesus story was inextricably connected to the servant song in Isaiah: “He had no form or comeliness…he was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows…Surely he has borne our grief and carried our sorrows…He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that made us whole, and with his stripes we are healed…When he makes himself an offering for sin, he shall see his offspring, he shall prolong his days…because he poured out his soul to death, and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors (Is 53:1-12).

We see that these words were interpreted and written inscribed into our New Testament understanding of the life of Jesus which culminated on Golgotha’s hill. The suffering servant is the lens through which we read and interpret the passion of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. (Specifically we can read in Paul’s letters and in the first narratives of the Gospel; see I Cor. 11.24, 15:3-5 and Mark 14.24 for details).

Hippolytus, an ancient father of our Christian Faith writing in the 3rd century, in his Easter sermon offered the following words regarding Christ’s battle with death:

"Death was angered when it met you in the pit."
It was angered, for it was defeated.
It was angered, for it was mocked.
It was angered, for it was abolished.
It was angered, for it was overthrown.
It was angered, for it was bound in chains.

Death swallowed a body, and met God face to face.
It took earth and encountered heaven.
It took what is seen and fell upon the unseen.
O Death, where is your sting?
O Grave, where is your victory?

We come to worship God on this day and at this hour, to venerate the Holy Cross because we have come to understand through our spiritual disciplines, our prayers in the dark nights, and the plain facts of life daily lived, that we are unable to truly have life within us if we do not cling to the cross and the sacrificial act of Jesus.

I will never be good enough. I will never please enough. I will never know enough. I will never have enough. I will never be a good enough son or a good enough daughter. I will never conquer my ailments of cancer, alcoholism, food, sex, or whatever pleasure or illness binds us to death.

All of our brokenness, all of our addictions to life and to power, all of our eagerness to hate and blame and lie and cheat, all of our anger and willingness to treat unjustly for the sake of justice, all of our darkest and innermost hauntings, those things done and those things left undone are taken up on that hill at the foot of that cross and then buried in the tomb to die along with death.

We discover that we must depend upon God alone and the saving work of Jesus Christ for our freedom -- for our exodus in this world and the next.

So let us contemplate the mighty acts of Jesus upon the cross. And when he has died, let us take him down into the miry filth of our lives. Let us bravely walk into the pit and carry Jesus with us; wrapped in the linens of our brokenness and suffering, and let us in this moment of darkness face our death. Let us lay in the spiced tomb all that we brought with us to the cross, let us bury it there, let us leave it there, let us allow all that we are and all that we have become to be bound with Christ and to lie upon the shelf of his garden tomb.

Let us role the stone in place and allow God and death and all our sin and brokenness to be locked away in a battle for life, resurrection, and rebirth – a battle which promises deliverance for you and for me, for the church, for the world, and for all creation.

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  • "Christianity is not a theory or speculation, but a life; not a philosophy of life, but a life and a living process." Samuel Taylor Coleridge
  • "Most people are willing to take the Sermon on the Mount as a flag to sail under, but few will use it as a rudder by which to steer." Oliver Wendell Holmes
  • "Perfection, in a Christian sense, means becoming mature enough to give ourselves to others." Kathleen Norris
  • "Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can." John Wesley
  • "The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried." G. K. Chesterton
  • "One of our great allies at present is the Church itself. Do not misunderstand me. I do not mean the Church as we see her spread out through all time and space and rooted in eternity, terrible as an army with banners. That, I confess, is a spectacle which makes our boldest tempters uneasy. But fortunately it is quite invisible to these humans." C. S. Lewis
  • "When we say, 'I love Jesus, but I hate the Church,' we end up losing not only the Church but Jesus too. The challenge is to forgive the Church. This challenge is especially great because the church seldom asks us for forgiveness." Henri Nouwen, Bread for the Journey
  • "Christians are hard to tolerate; I don't know how Jesus does it." Bono
  • "It's too easy to get caught in our little church subcultures, and the result is that the only younger people we might know are Christians who are already inside the church." Dan Kimball