Pastor’s Letter for February 2021
Recently I’ve been thinking about the cross. I guess that is appropriate in these final weeks of Lent. Perhaps it was our Bible study of The Letter to the Galatians that got my thoughts turning. You can’t study anything St. Paul wrote without encountering the cross. It is central to Paul’s theology; you see his reference to the cross again and again. The verse that especially grabbed me was Galatians 6:14: “May I never boast of anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ” as the New Revised Standard Version puts it. But the older, more traditional words are: “Far be it from me to glory except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (RSV).
That idea of “glorying in the cross” has influenced many hymn writers through the years in such lines as “In the Cross of Christ I glory” (John Bowring in 1825), “…my sinful self my only shame, my glory all the cross” (Elizabeth Clephane in 1872), “ In the cross, in the cross, by my glory ever.” ( Fanny Crosby in 1869). All of this leads me to ask, do I glory in the cross? If not, why not? If not, what do I glory in?
Theological writer Ian Markham suggests that “from time to time Christians should stand back and acknowledge how odd our faith looks. For Christians claim that the most important divine action in history is the humiliating death of a poor Jew at the hands of an occupying power. The central Christian symbol is the ancient equivalent of the hangman’s noose or the electric chair. Instead of a dramatic demonstration of God’s power, we have weakness and failure affirmed. It is odd.” (Feasting on the Word Year B, Vol. 2 p. 86)
It is odd. St. Paul knew. He refers to the cross as foolishness—seeing the power of God in the powerless of Christ? Who would have imagined it? But as Paul goes on to explain in I Corinthians 1: 18-25, this is how God works. God shatters expectations—never more so than in all that happened at the cross. There God reveals God’s true nature by becoming weak and vulnerable. There agony and suffering doesn’t have the final word in life. There love and forgiveness is shown as never before. There a gruesome death becomes the way to life eternal and abundant. Being able to see this is itself a gift. For those who are “perishing” it seems complete and utter foolishness (I Cor. 1: 18), but to those who are being saved (do note that for Paul the project of salvation is not yet complete) it is God’s power.
All of which is to say that when we look at the cross, when we “stand beneath it” as the old hymn bids us (“Beneath the Cross of Jesus I fain would take my stand…”), when we embrace all that the cross means, we realize we cannot boast, or glory, in our own efforts; but only in what God in Christ has done for us..
So in these final weeks of Lent, what are you glorying in? How can we help each other find our glory in the cross? Please let me know your thoughts. I appreciate them—and you!
Yours, in Christ,
Yours, in Christ,