Thursday, April 1, 2010

Lenten Series #37: The Ol' Rugged Cross

It was at the top of the hour, as I walked through town earlier today. The Methodist church bells begun to ring! I noticed that the bells were echoing the melody of “The Ol’ Rugged Cross” . You know how you hear a familiar tune and take a minute for you to recognize it, but when you do you begin to sing it and your souls gets happy.  All evening I could not stop singing “so I cherish the ol’ rugged cross!”   The chorus got so deep in my spirit that I begun to wonder, what is it about the cross that I cherish so much? 

Today we celebrated or observed Maundy Thursday, a time when Jesus shared the Passover meal with his disciples, washed their feet, and acknowledged the one who would betray him.  Tomorrow many will gather around the world, acknowledging his death upon the cross, hearing his cries through the agony and the pain.  Why do i cherish that cross? It is a reminder of what Christ did on our behalf. Even when we did not know or recognize our sin, our separation from God Almighty, Christ closed the gap and gave himself for our sake.  I can still hear Jesus saying, “take up your cross and follow me”, but just as the disciples will do tonight, we turn back and say you are on your own!

Oh how I want so much to be like Jesus, but that cup is bitter and that cross is heavy, and well I don’t know if I can.  Yet the songwriter challenges me to cling to the cross? When I think of the word cling, I picture a child holding on to his mom for dear life!  Cling is a tight-hold.  Webster even goes further and say “to have a strong emotional attachment or dependence”.  We normally hold on tight to something that is good/beneficial. Could the cross actually be an emblem of suffering and shame and at the same time, a sign of peace and But I believe The Resurrection is the sign of peace and hope, while the cross is the shame and suffering.  So why would I want to cling to shame and pain? Then I am reminded of Paul’s letter to the Church of Corinth. He said,
 “Three times I appealed to the Lord about this, that it would leave me, but he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities for the sake of Christ; for whenever I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:8-10

We are able to carry our cross, the cross that we bear, the insults, hardships, persecutions etc.,  because of the power of Christ (that is seen through his suffering, not just his resurrection). Just as Christ was able to do the same because the power of the Almighty, was dwelling in him. Yet because of his humanity, he felt everything! Every whip, every insult, every nail, every betrayal. He felt it all!

I wonder how many sermons will go forth tomorrow that will actually leave us at the cross. As one of my professors would say, "stay at the cross, deal with the cross!" So often we want to go to resurrection (don’t get me wrong, I am glad He Lives), but it something about staying there with Jesus through the pain and difficulties of the cross.You can shout at the cross, but deal with the anguish of Christ going to the cross on behalf of a world that turned their backs on him. It is Good Friday for us, but surely it wasn't for Christ!

 What is there to cherish?  There must be a deep appreciation for what Christ did at dark Calvary. Maybe tomorrow could be a time of recognizing our sinful nature, which includes the deep institutionalized sins of the Church.  I know this may not get the crowd jumping up and down, but maybe it will move us to a place of true reconciliation with one another and those the church has ostracized, so that we all may partake in the Glorious resurrection as a reconciled people, to God and to one to another.  Is that not the burden the cross places on us?  Is that not why we cherish the ol’ rugged cross? Is that not why we anticipate crown of glory?  Yes it is full of suffering and shame, however; it’s the cross we bear for the sake of Christ and each other.

The Old Rugged Cross (Words & Music: George Ben­nard)
v1. On a hill far away stood an old rugged cross,
The emblem of suffering and shame;
And I love that old cross where the dearest and best
For a world of lost sinners was slain.
So I’ll cherish the old rugged cross,
Till my trophies at last I lay down;
I will cling to the old rugged cross,
And exchange it some day for a crown.
v2. O that old rugged cross, so despised by the world,
Has a wondrous attraction for me;
For the dear Lamb of God left His glory above
To bear it to dark Calvary.
 (check this video out... )

Cherish and Cling to the Cross,

No comments: