Thursday, January 19, 2012

Cross Reflections

Thank you Charles Beard for the time and effort you have put into this project for us.
And even more, thank you for your willingness to listen to the voice of God in your life and respond in obedience to the direction it set for you.

…When we look up at this cross we immediately see its’ threeness.
…One in three; three in one.

As Christians, the concept of trinity is central to our understanding of God for our lives.
Our faith proclaims that we worship the one true and living God, maker of heaven and earth who has made himself known to us as Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
The threeness of this cross also imagines for us the three crosses on the hill of Golgotha.
It helps us to remember the scene when redemption was accomplished for sinners, when the Son of God was crucified between two of them, for their sakes and ours.
The three crosses also remind us of how scripture declares that in the work of redemption this One who was crucified holds the three offices of Prophet, Priest and King.

Many things can be said of the cross and its significance for Christian faith. One hymn writer has penned the opening line,
When I survey the wondrous cross on which the Prince of Glory died, in part I think, because a survey approach is needed in order to review the many meanings of this symbol. It can be said that because of the reality of the cross, Christian faith is about the agony and the ecstasy.
As Rom. 8:17 says, Christians are heirs God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.

The order in Christian faith is always agony before ecstasy or as Paul writes to pastor Timothy,
If we suffer, we shall also reign with him.
Paul even refers to himself as, crucified with Christ, as a way of explaining his daily experience of faith.

The cross is central to Paul’s understanding of redemption. In the Pauline theology of salvation, the cross is the revelation of God’s power and wisdom.
The cross dramatically reveals an all en-compassing reconciliation which bridges the gap between God the Holy One and a sinful humanity.
Through the cross the barrier has been broken between God and humans and even between alienated groups of people such as Jew and Gentile.
The cross also marks the starting point of the final era which will ultimately lead to God’s restoration of the entire cosmos.

Here are some reflections on each of the three crosses as Charles envisioned them.

The cross which forms the foundation of this piece is made of rough, unadorned cedar. It is believed that this was the type of wood most commonly used for crucifixions in the ancient world. In the first century AD crucifixion was one of the strongest forms of deterrence against insurrection or political agitation under Roman rule.
When Jesus was crucified the sign posted above his head mockingly read,
King of the Jews. It was for the supposed reason that Jesus had been proclaiming himself Lord and King above Caesar that Rome put him to death. At the same time, to the Jewish community, Jesus was a blasphemer, being accused of making himself out to be God, and so crucifixion was for the Jews of that time a way of making real Deut. 21:22-23 which proclaims that blasphemers are cursed and should be put on public display by being hung on a tree.
This first rough hune cross in the piece reminds us that a Roman cross in Jesus’ day was both a cruel and terrible instrument of death and a means of public disgrace for the person hung who on it and by extension, for those who followed that person. There was no method worse than crucifixion as an instrument of public execution.
Jews could not imagine that God would allow their Messiah to die in such a way and Greeks and Romans had no respect for such victims.
For Jews, the crucifixion of Jesus proved he wasn’t the Messiah and for the Gentiles it made Jesus a person no body would take seriously.
So from all sides of culture the prophecy in Isa. 53:3 was fulfilled in the crucifixion of Jesus,
He was despised and rejected by mankind,
a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.
Like one from whom people hide their faces
he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.

The stark roughness of this first cross reminds us that at the foundation of our faith, at the cornerstone of redemption’s work, there is rejection and death.
As John says,
He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. 11 He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.

This is the scandal of the cross.
It dares us to put our trust in the one who was cast out, humiliated and cursed as he hung upon it. Yet it is also God’s way of salvation for despite its’ rejection and death those who trust in the work done upon it are received by God and find eternal life through this same crucified One. John says,
12 Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.

In vivid contrast to the base cross, the second cross is pure white and unmarred.
White is the color which takes into itself all colors and in this piece the white cross stands for the Holy One of Israel whom scripture reveals to be the God and Father of our Lord, Jesus Christ. Looking at the white cross in between the other two crosses reminds us that sin is the reason we are separated from God.
Sin separates because God is Holy.
Isaiah cried Woe is Me!
…and was undone when he was suddenly confronted by the holiness of God with nothing in between to shield him from it. Peter had a similar experience when a miraculous catch of fish suddenly gave him a glimpse of who Jesus really was.
Peter fell at Jesus’ feet and said to him,
Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.

Again the threeness of this cross piece symbolizes for us who God is. For in this second white cross we hear the seraphim of Isa. 6:3 calling out,
Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God Almighty.
The thrice repeated word holy conveys the Hebrew way of understanding God as not simply good or holy, but as most holy.
Yahweh is the most holy One.
It is this superlative holiness that judges sinners and bars their way to the throne of God.
And it is because of this holiness that sin can never be ignored and or left unpunished. It was this One of such holiness who was present at the scene of crucifixion.
The Holy One of Israel stood over the cross of execution, there judging the sin which separates and so elicited that mournful cry of,
Eloi Eloi Lama Sabachthani from the lips of Jesus as he, who knew no sin, literally became sin for each of us.

The second white cross reminds us that God’s holiness was at stake in the sin of humanity and the need for God to vindicate that holiness through the blood shed from the sacrificial lamb on the cross was genuine. At the same time, pure love was also on the scene working through the crucifixion to forgive sin and reconcile sinners unto God.
This is why our faith declares that Salvation is by grace through faith and not by the accomplishment of sinful human beings.
God alone has provided the lamb for the sacrifice.
And it is by that lamb that the curtain which formerly barred access for people into the holy of holies has now forever been ripped asunder.

The third cross in this piece is in fact our former sanctuary cross. In this way Charles has joined together our church’s past and future.

Note the position of the third cross.
It is slightly to the left of center from the other two upon which it rests. Charles told me this positioning of the third cross represents the perspective as seen from God’s point of view. It affirms that Christ is the risen and ascended Lord who now sits at the right hand of God the Father acting there as our advocate.

Charles has completed his trinity cross with the grandest of truths about the meaning of the Person and Work of Jesus Christ. Both Hebrews 1:3 and 8:1 say that Christ is at the right hand of the Majesty on high and that means as, Karl Barth notes, that the throne of God also belongs to Christ. That Christ is God in the fulfillment of the divine will, the use of his divine power and the revelation of his divine purpose. To Christ, God the Father has committed all things.
It is Him God loved before the foundation of the world and through him that same world came into being and is now being held together.
It is in Christ that God has reconciled the world to himself which thus declares that Jesus Christ is the bread of life,
…the good shepherd,
The light of the world,
…and the way, the truth and the life.

As these three crosses before us affirm,
All that belongs to God also belongs to Christ.
The Father is in him and he is in the Father,
…for he and the Father are indeed one.
Those who see the Son, also see the Father who sent him.
Those who believe in him believe not only in him, but also in the one who sent him!
There is nothing that is not subject to him that is not also subject to the Father as well.
To the glory of God the Father, Christ is the bearer of the name which is above every name, and one day at the hearing of that name every knee shall bow and every tongue shall confess that the crucified and risen Jesus is both Lord and Christ!

Jesus Christ is the Good News we proclaim!
It is the glad tidings of his kingdom we publish to our world!
He is the pearl of great price and the hidden treasure we sell all to get.
To encounter Christ is to know God.
To listen to Christ is to hear God.
To obey Christ is to obey God.

It is therefore to become a disciple of this Lord that we deny ourselves and take up the instrument of his crucifixion as our own. To God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit, three in one, be glory, honor and praise forever just as these crosses proclaim!

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