Wednesday, September 14, 2016
No one has ever gone to heaven and returned. But the Son of Man has come down from heaven. And as Moses lifted up the bronze snake on a pole in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in him will have eternal life. “For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.
Today in many communions across the planet is the Feast of the Cross, celebrating the means by which Jesus Christ offered salvation to any who will embrace his death, burial and resurrection as the gift from Almighty God to save our souls.
According to legends that spread widely, the True Cross [physical wood which was used in the crucifixion] was discovered in 326 by Saint Helena, the mother of the Roman Emperor Constantine the Great, during a pilgrimage she made to Jerusalem. The Church of the Holy Sepulchre was then built at the site of the discovery, by order of Helena and Constantine. The church was dedicated nine years later, with a portion of the cross[note 1] placed inside it. Other legends explain that in 614, that portion of the cross was carried away from the church by the Persians, and remained missing until it was recaptured by the Byzantine Emperor Heraclius in 628. Initially taken to Constantinople, the cross was returned to the church the following year.
The date of the feast marks the dedication of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in 335. This was a two-day festival: although the actual consecration of the church was on September 13, the cross itself was brought outside the church on September 14 so that the clergy and faithful could pray before the True Cross, and all could come forward to venerate it.[ii]
All “feast days” can be both blessing and bane; we have that with Christmas, where, if we are not careful, the Son of the Living God gets lost in wrapping paper and tinsel.
This feast carries the same possibilities. I’ve often imagined if we had the true cross, the actual wood upon which the Savior shed his blood, scientists would have a DNA festival trying to nail down just where Jesus was born, and what his Ancestry.com flow chart would look like.
Keeping the focus of why we celebrate days like Holy Cross is central to keeping our hearts centered on the Christ, and not on artifacts; the artifacts are inanimate and merely the trail of where He has been. Jesus, on the other hand, is living and on the move, always beckoning to us to walk with Him in the path that transforms the world. To forget that is to fumble with beads and mumble pious, but useless prayer phrases over and over in a dead faith.
Jesus promised the kind of living faith that compels action:
And when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself.”
John 12:32 (NLT)
To be drawn to Jesus is to be compelled into life-giving service to others, just as Christ gave himself for us. In that way it is, as we often sing that wonderful hymn, lifting-high the cross, the love of Christ [to] proclaim.
What can you do today that will lift-high the cross and proclaim His love?
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