Friday, March 10, 2006

CROSS: SYNTAX ERROR IN A MICROSOFT WORLD

Mark VanValin describes the cross as "the place where the hope of heaven touches a lost and dying world." I try to insert this description into a few Bible references to the cross: "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me" (Mark 8:34). Or, "I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me" (Galatians 2:20). Or, "The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to those who are being saved it is the power of God" (1 Corinthians 1:18; all references NIV).

OUT OF STAINED GLASS. While definitions invariably reduce a compelling and multifaceted mystery, this description has something going for it. The description takes the cross out of history and off the stained glass window. It puts it into the present and into the places where we suffer, question, struggle, can't seem to make it all make sense, don't see resolutions, and deal with very messy stuff with a hope that God's goodness will yet break through. It invites us into the picture and to walk the way of the cross.

IN A MICROSOFT WORLD. The cross must seem like a very out-of-place icon in a self-sufficiency-oriented society. I look at the icons on my computer screen. Every one of them is a can-do, point-and-click threshold toward me achieving what I want to achieve in my own way on my own time on my own terms. If I should see a cross icon on the screen, where would it take me? I don't want to go there. It is just out of place; a syntax error in a Microsoft world. Crosses are safer when they are on the walls and in the stained glass of ancient churches. The cross gets in the way of "progress."

IN THE WAY. John Fischer writes of a church in the northeast where a ten-foot tall cross is imbedded in the foundation of the sanctuary. It stands compellingly between the pews and the platform, just off center. Its horizontal cross bar is at a height of six feet so that, no matter where you sit or stand, whether as a congregant or leader of worship, you have to see through the cross--or duck to go around it. The cross is always in the way. Gloriously in the way. Maybe this, and not on a wall, is the most helpful place for the cross to be placed. Better yet, not in the church at all, but on the street, in the conference room, in the classroom, in the restaurant, at the stadium. See what happens when, in your mind's eye, you place the cross in the heart of your life's crossroad places these days.

Graphic: found at the Images of Jesus website

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