Why I wear a cross

Do you wear a cross necklace? If not, you probably know someone who does. Do you ever wonder why?

I’m not going to debate whether a cross is a pagan symbol for various Sun-deities. Nor, am I going to debate whether Christians should or shouldn’t wear a cross. I’m also not going to debate whether Jesus was crucified on a “cross” or a “stake.” A case can be made for the later from some Greek translations of the New Testament, but that’s splitting hairs and we’re not going there.

It’s true, the cross symbol predates Christianity centuries before Jesus was crucified. It wasn’t until around 430AD that crosses began to be seen in churches. Over the centuries, this symbol has been both celebrated and perverted by religions worldwide.

In today’s culture I believe the cross has been domesticated…tamed to the point of being irrelevant. It appears on so many things, and its original intent (pagan or sacred) has been largely lost in translation. We see celebrities and athletes adorn themselves with crosses….sometimes in numbers that would cause drowning if they ever fell into deep water. They must be super religious, right?

I have a small cross I wear pretty much 24/7, but not as a fashion statement or good luck talisman that protects me from bad juju. There are no special powers about this piece of gold. I don’t pray to it or worship it in any way.

Soooooo, why do I wear it, you might wonder? After all, a cross or crucifix is representative of one of the most horrific methods of execution known to humankind. History states it was probably the Assyrians and Babylonians who originated this method of torture; but it was the Romans who perfected the art around the first century. It was so torturous that, by decree except in cases of treason, it was rarely used on Roman citizens.

According to Britannica.com:

Usually, the condemned man, after being whipped, or “scourged,” dragged the crossbeam of his cross to the place of punishment, where the upright shaft was already fixed in the ground. Stripped of his clothing, he was bound fast with outstretched arms to the crossbeam or nailed firmly to it through the wrists. The crossbeam was then raised high against the upright shaft …. Next, the feet were tightly bound or nailed to the upright shaft. A ledge inserted about halfway up the upright shaft gave some support to the body. Over the criminal’s head was placed a notice stating his name and his crime. Death ultimately occurred through a combination of constrained blood circulation, organ failure, and asphyxiation as the body strained under its own weight. It could be hastened by shattering the legs with an iron club, which prevented them from supporting the body’s weight and made inhalation more difficult, accelerating both asphyxiation and shock.

If the sacrificial death of Jesus was needed to redeem and reconcile humankind back to its creator, there surely were less gruesome ways other than crucifixion to make that happen; surely there were quicker methods that would have accomplished this atonement. Why so much brutality? Why so much savagery? Why death on a cross?

What’s missing from our 21st century view of the cross is exactly that….the raw realization of that brutality and savagery Jesus experienced….for his creation. Why did Jesus, the incarnate God, choose to suffer to this extent at the hands of evil? Why…since at any point he could have stopped all of it by simply stepping down off the cross…did  he voluntarily endure six hours of pain, broken bones, thorns pressed into his head, and eventual suffocation of his human form? Would blood from a finger prick make the same statement? It surely could have sufficed for a blood offering. How about a quick spear through the heart? Surely that would have been preferable to six hours of agony.

Which makes this historical event all the more an epiphany moment for me. The cross is representative of both darkest evil and radiating goodness. It’s message is one of both humble surrender and powerful victory. For six hours, evil was unleashed and allowed to do its damnedest against God the Son. And in the end, it appears evil was successful in silencing both Jesus and the movement.

Until three days later when the seemingly impossible happened. Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection are the perfect bookends to show his sovereign power over sin and death. And, the fact that so many people witnessed and encountered the risen Christ after the fact makes this seemingly impossible event all the more relevant. The authority of the empty tomb trumped the agony and savagery of the cross. It was the ultimate statement that evil did not, could not and will not win in the end. And, that is why this “movement” exploded during the centuries that followed. Too many people witnessed the impossible and Christianity became impossible to stop, despite continued torture and crucifixion of its followers.

That symbol of torture is my reminder of hope; it’s my reminder of how much pain Jesus suffered for my sake; a reminder of how much my life means to God.

A finger prick could never mean as much.

Playing along with others over at Peabea’s Pictorial Tuesday.

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The thoughts are a bit cloudy

clouds72

Whom have I in heaven but you?
And earth has nothing I desire besides you.
Psalm 73:25

Qutography’s prompt this week is clouds. A while ago I posted an awesome cloud shot that, like this one, makes me think God is revealing himself to us. Hope you like this one too.

Yesterday at worship, one of our pastors asked if we wanted to go to heaven. Well, duuhhhh, of course. Everyone nodded their head yes. But then he threw all of us for a curve and asked if we wanted to go TODAY?

Today? Well….um……let’s see…..um…..can we reschedule?

What should have been an emphatic YES! turned out to be a stumbling block. A trick question to make us ask ourselves if we really believe being in the presence of our Maker is our ultimate goal….or just another item on our bucket list.

I have to admit, I hesitated. Deep down a YES was struggling to the surface. But it got blocked by things like seeing Peanut grow up; watching The Floridian walk down the aisle; holding subsequent grandbabykins; traveling to awesome places with Entrepreneur in our retirement.

Oh sure, there are days when I’d chuck it all and ride that heavenly escalator right up to the entrance of those pearly gates in a heartbeat. But those are usually the days when things are falling apart. It’s an easy trade when life is a struggle and everything is wrong. When my heart aches and even everyday tasks seem impossible, the thought of no more heartache, tears, pain and death seem like a wonderful alternative.

It’s easy to answer this question when I’d sad, mad, distraught and depressed. If I had a terminal illness or horrific injury, it would be a no-brainer decision. Not so easy when everthing is going as planned. Not so easy when life if full of joy and anticipation. Not so easy when there’s so many things to look forward to doing.

CS Lewis said, “Don’t build your happiness on something you can lose.”

And when I think about it, I can lose anything and everything in this world; my kids, my grandkids, my spouse, my siblings, my parents, my job, my house, my health, my life…..nothing is permanent in this world.

Do you want to go to heaven?
Today?

How would you answer this question?

Linking up with Quotography
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O Holy Night

Christmas Eve. There’s something magical about the night…that has nothing to do with Santa Claus.

candle in ornaments
Long lay the world in sin and error pining.
Till He appeared and the soul felt its worth.

This year, Christmas is stained with the recent, horrific events in Newtown, Conn. I’m sure every parent who tucks their child into bed on this night in anticipation of Christmas morning won’t not think of the pain and anguish the parents of those children are experiencing. The bedtime hug will be just a little tighter, and the kiss goodnight will be held just a little longer.

Christmas Day is certainly a feature event for Christians around the world. But Christmas Eve is held in our hearts as a holy night filled with the soft glow of candles as the Advent season closes in anticipation of the promise fulfilled.

But how hard is it to see that promise these days? We live in a culture of violence. It’s everywhere. It permeates every aspect of our lives from our movies to television to video games. The news is famous for showing us a ring-side seat to the violence and hate in every part of the world.

Where is the promise of peace on earth and goodwill towards our fellow men and women? Where is the joy to the world? So much of the time, the world stumbles in darkness looking for some semblance of hope.

And yet….

Every year, the world is reminded there is a light in the darkness. That, even though there are tragic happenings everywhere, there is hope for better days ahead.

This hope comes in the form of 26 Christmas trees delivered in memory of 26 lives. It comes from a man in California buying cups of coffee for everyone in Newtown. It comes as 26 stuffed animals delivered to a children’s ward at a hospital. It comes through neighbors who trek out onto a snow-covered highway in the middle of a blizzard to bring stranded travelers blankets, food and coffee. It comes as an extension cord drug out to a gate with power strips and sign inviting anyone who needs to recharge their cell phone after a hurricane.

Yes, hope is everywhere and there are lights in the darkness. And every year on Christmas Eve, we look to the ultimate hope of life of unprecedented joy. A time when there are no more tears. No more sadness. No more darkness. A time when love and peace prevail.

O Holy Night! The stars are brightly shining,
It is the night of the dear Savior’s birth.
Long lay the world in sin and error pining.
Till He appeared and the Soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.

Fall on your knees!
Oh, hear the angel voices!
O night divine, the night when Christ was born;
O night, O Holy Night, O night divine!
O night, O Holy Night, O night divine! 

Truly He taught us to love one another,
His law is love and His gospel is peace.
Chains he shall break, for the slave is our brother.
And in his name all oppression shall cease.
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
With all our hearts we praise His holy name.

Christ is the Lord! Then ever, ever praise we,
Noel! Noel! O night, O night divine
Noel! Noel! O night, O night divine!

[youtuber youtube=’http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zQWXfHzOKUU’%5D

Merry Christmas to you and yours. May the light of hope shine brightly in your life.

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