Holy Cross Day – September 14, 2019 – John 12:31-36a – St. Mary’s Convent, Sewanee
The cross is everywhere. Signed on our foreheads, across our chests, and on our hands. Laid in our stonework, etched into our windows, and even baked right into our communion bread.
The cross is the Christian symbol, and for good reason: Jesus died on the cross. As an instrument of torture, the cross carries with it the baggage of violence, shame, and death, but God took this sign of torture and made it a sign of new life.
Imagine. An instrument of death becoming a symbol of new life. Like all good Christian theology, it’s paradoxical to the core.
Over the centuries some folks have, unfortunately, used the cross to inflict shame. Some who grew up attending rigid parochial schools or fire-and-brimstone churches are still scarred by the guilt they felt when they were told that they were responsible for hanging Jesus on it.
You and I know that the cross is not an emblem designed to manipulate our emotions. The cross is a tangible reminder of the intersection of human and divine life.
When we see God enfleshed on the cross, we witness God identifying with human suffering in an unparalleled way. Even Jesus, born of a woman, yet one with his father in heaven, did not escape the cold reality of death.
God, at one with our human nature, gets it. God gets that we suffer, and God shows us on the cross that he is with us when we do. Most importantly of all, God shows us that suffering and death do not ultimately get the last word. That belongs to resurrection.
On the cross we see the hard reckoning of human pain with the promise of new life in God who loves us beyond measure. Ironically, by dying, Jesus shows us just how powerful his life is. We are inheritors of that life—eternal life—in Christ.
We remember the cross today because of its sacred place in that eternal life. I’m not sure what happened to the real one, though its purported fragments abound. But that’s okay. The reality of its power does not depend on its archeological discovery.
The cross still marks the spot of Jesus’ death and ensures us of the promise of eternal life. On our bodies. On this altar. Built right into the side of this building. Baked right into this holy bread.
Rejoice friends, for wherever Jesus’ cross is, there God is at work, transforming death into life. Thank God it’s grafted on our hearts.