Introducing: the Cross
How would I introduce myself? I was entered onto the cradle role of the Salvation Army by my parents as an act of dedicating themselves to bringing me up as a Christian, I grew up and went from pseudo-atheist to Christian before being baptised in a Baptist church, served as a deacon there, after fourteen years I moved to an open Brethren church, served as an elder there before moving to an Anglican church where I trained as a Reader.
And as I sat today in a church service in my new home of Wymondham, far away from all of that I found it didn’t mean a lot to me, even though to some it might sound impressive, because like Paul, and this is where any other resemblance clearly ends, I count it all as dog-dirt.
“7 Yet whatever gains I had, these I have come to regard as loss because of Christ. 8 More than that, I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and I regard them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but one that comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God based on faith.” Philippians 3:7-9 (NRSV)
On a day to day basis that is not always the case. Taken out of my comfy church family and living in a temporary rented home where the neighbour tells me “Excuse me! But I own this house!” for merely putting the car on the grass before putting it away. It wasn’t even his grass to moan about – and the council need to cut it – dock heaven! It is human to rely on past ‘importance’ and achievement. And then as I listened to the sermon, with only one ear and one eye of course, I saw the big cross on the wall. It reminded me of the even bigger illuminated cross on the wall of my old church and the other voice inside reminded me that I wasn’t going to get far on past honours. Dog-dirt! It sticks and it stinks and someone I know and love dearly doesn’t want it in his house.
So hello cross, so pleased to meet you! I need to come for a chat every day but sometimes life gets too busy doing nothing. And what shall we chat about? I’d rather not! It’s painful, embarrassing and shameful. But oddly enough after I have been to visit things seem clearer and cleaner and the burdens fall away.
But it is also just a symbol. Here is a holding cross, made of olive wood from the Holy Land. It is more than just a wooden cross because a dear friend and fellow Reader who led our Foundations for Ministry course gave each of us one at the end of the year. It’s a symbol of friendship and my relationship with Jesus and the Holy Spirit and hence with the Father. There is also another symbol in this picture – my wedding ring. This too is a symbol of another loving relationship of forty years – with my lovely wife.
So whilst the symbol can go unnoticed, or worse become just a token for the real thing, the relationship is what it is really all about.
Hello Cross, so pleased to meet you again today. Give my love to everyone and especially Jesus, who loved me from the very first.