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Posts Tagged ‘lift high the cross’

It is quite possible that this post may get me into more hot water that I’m currently in. It may end up with more people passing me by, more silent stares, more head shaking, and even more people trying to get their hands on me – to lay hands on me and pray out my spirit of unbelief and rebellion.

What have I been up to? Well it all started with a simple email.

I wrote an email to one of our leaders at our church and asked what I thought was a simple question. “Why don’t have an empty cross in our church?” I had noticed the absence of one and the comparative starkness of our auditorium and had wondered why.

I have to say the response shocked me. It was not anticipated, it was strange and bizarre. His response is also shared with a few others in the leadership team and among some of the elders. Once I had picked myself off the floor – because this response had floored me. I responded and thanked him for his views and explained mine, and how that would we need to agree to disagree on this. After a couple of weeks I was still troubled and decided to write a letter to the elders of our church to perhaps open a dialogue on the empty cross.

I haven’t had a formal response from them yet, but I have had lots of informal responses, from leaders, some elders, other people, and a feeling that I have been put into a box. You know the one, the box that’s labelled, “handle with care and grab him when he next comes to church so that we can pray with him and cure him of his rebellious nature”. It’s a long label, but then so was my letter.

Here are some of the responses I’ve received so far about my email and letter about why we don’t have an empty cross in our church:

  • “Why we would want an instrument of torture on display in our church?”
  • “Why, David, do you need a symbol [crutch] for your faith?”
  • “What does this say about how much faith you have [or don’t have]”?
  • “If we put a cross up people will leave”
  • “It’s a pagan symbol”
  • “It’s takes the focus of the speaker, and the worship team”
  • “It would be too distracting”
  • “Lots of people came to this church because we don’t have a cross”
  • “It’s not important – it’s not central to Christianity and what we believe”
  • “I think it’s really about time we had a coffee and a chat . . . MATE”

Remember – these are the responses from the people in leadership and governance roles at our church. They are views of some of the leaders, and not all the leaders. Some of the leaders and elders have equally strong opposing views – this is encouraging, but also divisive.

I’m appalled, disappointed, angry, upset, but most of all sad, very sad about all of these responses.

At some level I may have a deep need, a desperate need to look at the cross, to cling to the cross with every fibre of my being, maybe it is a crutch for my faith – but oh what a support it is, what hope it represents, what life it symbolises, and what courage it gives me.

Courage to speak to gospel, courage to share my faith, and courage to take a stand about what I believe in the face of such opposition – opposition from those who would take away the cross, take away the symbol of life, light, and hope. Take away the symbol of the resurrected Christ – the cross.

So why the cross and why would it be important to display one – in a church?

For me, the empty cross represents belief that, after his death by crucifixion, Jesus Christ rose from the dead, and that his atoning work is finished and complete. Therefore, the empty cross does not depict emptiness, but quite the opposite. It proclaims Christ’s victory over death, for which the cross was the instrument not of torture – but one of eternal and relentless hope.  It proclaims hope and assurance, for Christ is risen and lives today.

An empty cross is common as a point of reference, of focus and of attention, not as an idol, but as a symbol of Christian events. The image of an empty cross is symbolic of Christ’s death and resurrection. Without the resurrection the life and death of Christ is of no use to anyone. Everything Jesus did and said make no difference if He didn’t rise from the dead.  A dead Christ can’t save anyone.

For these and many more reasons many churches choose to use an empty cross as a symbol of Christianity’s highest ideals. Therefore the empty cross symbolizes the risen Christ. Throughout history, the cross has been the common and central faith focus of Christians, not because of what it is, but because of what it represents.

On a hill far away stood an old rugged cross,
the emblem of suffering and shame;
and I love that old cross where the dearest and best
for a world of lost sinners was slain.

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 someday for a crown.

~ George Bennard, 1913

So later this month, I’ll get a response to my letter, I expect that we still won’t have a cross in our church. I expect that I won’t be able to sit, stand or worship at the foot of the cross in our church. I may do what I did this week, and go to our National Museum and visit the war memorial display, sit down on the comfy seat, pray, reflect and meditate and set my gaze on the white glowing cross they have on display there. How I wish I could do this at our church.

Here’s what the cross mean to me. What does it mean to you? I’d love to hear your comments on the cross, the symbol of where life and faith intersect.

Lift High The Cross

At the cross I bear my soul
The emblem to which I cling
Your life, my hope, my legacy
My all, Your everything

At the cross I bear my heart
The symbol to which I sing
O Jesus you have saved my soul
To you my life I bring

At the cross I leave my sin
The sign to which I kneel
At your feet I fall down
I am covered by your seal

On that cross you paid it all
The hope for all to see
That empty cross, the sign of life
For you, for us, for me.

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