14 September 2015

Philippians 2:6-11

“He humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death – even death on a cross” (v. 8)

Psalm: Psalm 22


The feast day of Holy Cross Day, celebrated on 14 September, is not a familiar one to many Methodists, but to our brothers and sisters in the wider Church it is very significant. It is a day when the liturgies remind them of the sacrifice of Jesus when he went to the cross on Good Friday, but also that it was through that sacrifice that "God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow" (vv. 9-10).

In the fourth century pilgrims began to travel to Jerusalem to visit and pray at places associated with the life of Jesus. Legend has it that Helena, the mother of the Roman Emperor, paying such a visit discovered a cross which she and others believed to be the cross on which Christ was crucified. From then on the cross became a symbol of faith worn by followers of Jesus and took precedence over the fish which had been the 'secret' sign until that time.

Whether or not the cross symbol should be that of an empty cross or a crucifix has often divided Christians since that time, I was once told very forcibly by a lady in a Women's Fellowship meeting, "we worship an empty cross" when I took along my picture of Salvador Dali's ' Christ of St John of the Cross' to their meeting. However, a day when we can reflect on the significance of the cross on which Jesus suffered and died, gives us the opportunity to examine our own discipleship in the lights of the text for the day. To quote Vicky Beeching's hymn:

"May I never lose the wonder,
the wonder of the cross.
May I see it like the first time,
standing as a sinner lost.
Undone by mercy and left speechless,
watching wide-eyed at the cost.
May I never lose the wonder,
the wonder of the cross."

To Ponder

  • How much does your faith mean to you? If you were brought before a judge and asked to deny your faith to avoid a death sentence, would you do it?
  • How important is the symbol of the cross, as a talisman, a badge of office, or a place to worship to you?
  • Cross or Crucifix which? Or is there room for both?

Bible notes author

The Revd Pat Billsborrow

Pat Billsborrow is a supernumerary minister in the Northwich and Winsford Circuit, and is at present part of a district ministry team working within that circuit with pastoral care of four churches. She is ecumenical officer in the Cheshire part of the Chester and Stoke on Trent Methodist District.