Stillmeadow Church of the Nazarene 400 Stillmeadow Lane York, PA 717.764.4888
God's Big Idea
Session # 28 - Love As A Crosswalk
Sunday June 12th
GOD’S BIG IDEA
“Love As A Crosswalk”
I Corinthians 2:2
June 12, 2011
God’s Big Idea:love God . . . love others.
God’s love for us.How do we know God loves us?The cross.
And one of the most effective ways we can communicate God’s love for us is to keep the cross before the world.
THE OLD GREENWICH CROSS
In Old Greenwich, Connecticut, stands a church with a cross in it.Unlike most churches, whose crosses adorn the front wall behind the preacher, this one is bolted down into the concrete floor in front of the platform, not more than three feet from where the preacher stands.
Its positioning defines reason and art and convention.No architect in his right mind would have designed such a placement.It is an obstruction.The preacher’s words have to pass through it; the congregation’s eyes always have it somewhere in view, so that even when they look away, it is still there, impressed on the back wall of the retina.
It is a sturdy wooden cross, ten feet tall.The crossbar is set high on the vertical beam, so high that it seems out of proportion compared to other more proportionate crosses that decorate other more proportionate churches.
Nothing about this cross is pretty.It is made of raw, untreated wood, and when you see it up close, you think of splinters, of something hard . . . immovable.It is set deep in the concrete floor as well as bolted to it, so that a blow makes it vibrate rapidly. Strike it hard enough, and it will answer back in a low tone.I’ve heard that it can be removed, but not without great difficulty, because of its size and weight.
It would be almost impossible to forget this cross, when I was standing and talking with someone or walking anywhere near the front of the church.I had a tendency to shy away from it—to lean unconsciously, to make sure I always knew where it was or, more accurately, where I was in relation to it.
The minute I walked into the church in Old Greenwich and encountered this startling placement of the cross, I felt as if I had discovered something truly significant. For just as the cross has been placed squarely in the center of this church, so it has always stood in the center of history and in the center of any life that has truly embraced it.And just as the placement of this cross seems uncomfortable, so it is. . .and so it should be.There is nothing comfortable about the cross.The church in America has become increasingly accustomed to Christianity without a cross—or, at best, with one hanging harmlessly in the background.
The Old Greenwich cross seems more like what crosses should be if we are, in fact, going to have any of them around as reminders. It is rugged, sturdy, bare, and in the way.
The Old Greenwich cross has to be reckoned with.It is in the middle of everything—weddings, funerals, concerts, baptisms, dedications, prayer meetings, Sunday morning services.Where do you put the casket?Are the bride and groom going to stand on either side of it?What if the bride’s dress gets caught on a splinter?Where do you put the horn section?Where do you stand?Every event that takes place in this church has to accommodate this cross in some way.It cannot be moved easily like the pulpit or the platform chairs or the Communion table or the planters of ivy that line the platform’s edge.It’s almost as if the church was built around the cross—as if it were the first thing down before the walls went up and the roof went on.
Something tells me it was.
On A Hill Too Far Away.John Fischer.Bethany House. p.15.16, 25.
II.Lift the Cross
God’s love, demonstrated on the cross, has universal scope as well.In Hebrews we are told that, by the grace of God, Jesus tasted death for everyone (Hebrews 2:9).God’s gracious provision of salvation excludes no one – “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son”—which does not mean that all are saved.Fore we are also told that “whoever believes in him shall not perish” (John 3:16).But God does not want “anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).
God’s love is an objective reality.
II.Carry the Cross
1.We have been called to not only lift the cross but carry the cross as well.
Becoming like Jesus means sharing his convictions about the unique meaning of the cross.It also means following his path to the Cross.All that we have to say about cross-bearing is by way of response to what God in Christ has done for us.The death we die in him is not of the same order as the death he died for us.Only Christ can atone for our sins.But what Christ does for us radically changes our approach to life.
We therefore affirm with the apostles a two-pronged theology of the Cross.First, Christ’s penal substitutionary death saves us from God’s judgment of sin and the experience of God’s-forsakenness.Second, Christ calls us to take up our cross and follow him. The words of Jesus are final; discipleship follows salvation absolutely.“If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23).Bonhoeffer warned against turning the costly grace of Christ’s cross into the cheap grace of religious abstractions and empty piety.He wrote, “Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.”
The apostles were not only convinced of the doctrine of the Crucifixion: they were committed to the way of the Cross.They were more concerned to work out the reality of the Cross practically than they were to repeat a theological formula.When Paul wrote to the Corinthians, saying, “I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified” (I Cor. 2:2), he had no intention of reducing the gospel to an abbreviated form of the “plan of salvation.”On the contrary, Paul saw the relevance of the Cross in every conceivable sphere of the Christian’s life.He saw the Cross of Jesus as the basis for Christian unity (1:13) and the rationale for church discipline (5:7), and he even advised refraining from eating meat on the basis of the Cross.Since eating meat which had first been offered to idols was an offense to some of the Christians in Corinth, Paul warnedbelievers not to continue this practice because it might confuse and destroy their weaker brothers and sisters “for whom Christ died” (8:11). Paul was prepared to go meatless for the sake of the Cross.Knowing nothing except Jesus Christ and him crucified meant that every challenge and every problem was seen in terms of the Cross of Jesus. Paul bore it into every life situation, from lawsuits and singleness to the exercise of gifts and the practice of the Lord’s Supper.Accepting the Cross of Jesus Christ is not a passive act.It is a personal, passionate public commitment to become like Jesus.Jesus issued the command to take up the Cross publicly (Mark 8:34).He made his point in the midst of the crowd and did not simply whisper the command in secret or hint at it in the privacy of the Upper Room.He chose to let everyone know what it meant to follow him.Even the world can detect a disciple on the basis of the Cross.
|©2013 Stillmeadow Church of the Nazarene. All rights reserved.|