14 September 2021Philippians 2:6-11
So that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth. (v. 10)
St Paul in in his letter to the Philippians spells out for us the beauty as well as the sacrifice of Jesus as we reflect on those things this day, “He humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death – even death on a cross.” (v. 8)
Today is Holy Cross Day, a feast day that is is not a familiar one to we Methodists, but to our brothers and sisters in the wider Church this day is a very significant one. 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 his identity was revealed. To quote the text: “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.”(vs 9-10)
In the 4th century pilgrims began to travel to Jerusalem and 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 it took precedence over the fish which had been the 'secret' sign until that time.
Whether or not the symbol should be an empty cross or a crucifix (with the figure of Christ on it) 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 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 light of the text for the day. To quote the 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.” (StF 279)
- “He humbled himself, even to death on a cross.” How much does our faith mean to us? If we were brought before a judge and asked to deny our faith to avoid a death sentence, would we do it?
- How important is the symbol of the cross, as a talisman, a badge of office, or a place to worship?
- Cross or crucifix – which? Or is there room for both?
As we consider the great sacrifice made by Jesus on our behalf, may we be prepared to go beyond the places we find comfortable to spread the message of love he came to bring. May we have the courage to wear the cross boldly as a symbol of our faith and not hide that faith away as something special only to us and our fellow believers. Amen.