9/14/2014 Holy Cross Sunday The text for today’s sermon is John 3:13-18.
Grace and peace to you from God, our Father, and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Every year on September 11th I watch the History Channel. Every year on September 11 that station airs programs about the events that occurred 13 years ago, when mad-men, poisoned by hatred, in the name of their God, chose to abduct airliners full of ordinary people in order to fly those planes into office buildings full of people going about the business of the day. On 9/11, we watched the collapse of the World Trade Center, the hole punched into the Pentagon, and the fiery remains of a plane crash in PA. We watched in horror, especially since two of the flights originated at Logan Airport. It all hit too close to home.
While all our lives changed on 9/11, some people will forever reflect on how little things saved them from certain death. The head of a company survived 9/11 because his son started kindergarten. Another fellow was alive because it was his turn to bring donuts. One woman was late because her alarm clock didn’t go off in time. Another was late because of a car accident on the NJ turnpike. One survivor simply missed the bus. One spilled food on her clothes and had to take time to change. One survivor’s car wouldn’t start. One went back to answer the telephone. Another couldn’t get a taxi and another had put on a new pair of shoes that morning and developed a blister so he stopped at the drugstore to buy some band-aids. Because of little things, these people did not perish.
Little things sometimes make a great difference in people’s lives. Yet, it was no little thing that God did in order to save us all. God sent his son into the world to die for us so that we might live. God sent his son to take our place on the cross – to take our place because sin is so hideous to God that this is what we deserved – death. Sin had damaged us and the world around us, and God knew that if he left us on our own, there would be no recovery from the poison of sin which separates us from him. So, God loved the world and the people he created to be precious. God loved the world so much that he was willing to sacrifice his only begotten son on the rugged cross to atone for all our wrong.
Now crucifixion was no fast or easy death. It was ugly. It was gruesome. It was reserved for the lowest, vilest, and meanest. Killers, robbers, renegades, insurrectionists and thieves all met their demise on crosses. And yet, the cross has become our sign for salvation. In it we see the promise of life – in the same way that some survivors look at car trouble and blisters as blessings.
This cross depicts the suffering of our Lord while emphasizing that Jesus, the victor, still suffers wherever anyone suffers in this world – whether through the actions of mad-men, a hurricane’s path, an illness, an accident, an injustice. Jesus suffers with us now as he suffered on the cross once and for all time for our salvation. So, no matter how we depict this terrible instrument of torture, it is beautiful to us as we see Christ suffering with us and for the death we deserve in order to grant us the life we could never have without His intervention. Why did he die such a horrid way? All because God thinks we are worth it.
God was willing to go the extra mile for us like a farmer in North Carolina who drove his wagon into town one day with two high-spirited horses. He hitched them up in front of a store and was about to go in when the horses were frightened by a loud noise. They ripped away from the hitching post and ran off, with the farmer hanging onto the reins. The horses dashed down the street, with the farmer still holding on, until finally someone flagged them down. In a frenzy, the horses rose up on their haunches and came crashing down on the body of the farmer. By the time he was freed, the farmer was dying. A friend asked, “Why didn’t you let them go? That wagon wasn’t worth all this.” The farmer gasped his last breath, “Go Look in the wagon.” They turned, and there asleep in the wagon was the farmer’s four-year-old son.
My friends, that is how important you are to Jesus. You are like the four-year-old son. You are so important that Jesus did what was necessary to give you life. It may seem that God chose a painful way of suffering to be for us the way of life and salvation. But it is through the cross of Christ that God declares that as undeserving as you and I may be, we are worth the effort. The cross is the way we know the depth of God’s lavish love for us. And if we look to the one on the cross in true faith, we live! For there IS life.
So it’s no wonder that Christians have made the cross a symbol of faith. We are the only religion in the world whose universal symbol portrays death. Imagine, if you can, someone holding up a rope, a hangman’s noose, and saying, “This is a sign of my faith.” Or perhaps someone wearing a small, golden electric chair on a chain and calling it beautiful – yet we take a cross, an executioner’s beam, and wear it proudly. For in the cross we see God’s love and salvation for a sinful world.
Rejoice in God’s salvation. Wear your cross in pride. For although life on earth is uncertain and full of danger, eternal life of peace and joy is secured through the cross. So may the peace of God, which surpasses all human understanding, keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.