For Sunday, 14 September 2014
Comments welcome – not too sure if this hangs together or needs more editing. Thanks!
In the church calendar, today we celebrate the Holy Cross. Celebration seems to me to be an odd word to use as why would anyone want to celebrate the device used to torture, and Crucifix our Lord? It seems a vile and repulsive thing to do. The cross forms the corner stone of our faith for upon it the Love of God was poured out in His act of saving Grace towards us.
But how much do we take the cross for granted? How often do we think about the act of God being crucified? Or do we ignore it preferring only to think about when it’s right in our faces at Easter? Or perhaps we ignore that sad part because we don’t want to be reminded of our own sufferings, of our own crosses to bear.
However, God is present in our suffering. He’s right there alongside all humanity because when Jesus was crucified, it was God being crucified. God wasn’t distant, detached, looking down on the cross. He was looking down from the cross.
But you may say, yeah well I’ve heard this all before but what does it mean for us? Where is God in the suffering today. When the boy with the knife walked into the Chase School, where was God? When my friend was diagnosed with cancer, where was God? When I was in the darkest place in my life ever, where was God?
All I can say is, we live in a fallen and broken world. God does not cause the suffering. God bears the suffering. Neither does God initiate suffering but God transforms it. God suffers with us, dies with us and resurrects for us. This is the wisdom of God that the wisdom of the world struggles so much with because the cross inverts all our ideas of human power, what divinity should be and how authority works out. As Paul said “For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.”
Foolishness is a difficult word. We don’t like being made to look a fool in front of others. We feel embarrassed, ashamed and even angry. So, naturally, we do everything in our power to prevent that from happening. So we plot and plan and measure our speech to weed out every possibility of losing control. For losing control would feel far too uncomfortable. However, where does the space for God in our lives fit in?
Let me try something with you that I learned at the Christian festival, Greenbelt last month. Everyone clasp your hands together with your fingers interlocked. Now gentle press your top thumb down, feels ok, huh? Now clasp your hands differently together and squeeze you thumbs. That’s a little painful! Ok now fold your arms. That’s ok isn’t it? Ok, try folding them differently. That feels way uncomfortable doesn’t it! Perhaps you can’t even it do it!
And yet feeling uncomfortable is not a bad thing. In fact feeling uncomfortable makes us question, think about things differently and through the challenges we face we find ourselves being in the process of transformation into the likeness of Christ.
Joining holy trinity teams may feel uncomfortable. It’s a new idea which is untested and, the horror, different! Perhaps it makes no sense to you. Perhaps it even seems a little foolish? Aha! Is that God at work? Is that grace? Is that the freedom the cross talks about? Free to live differently from a society that expects to be rewarded for its every action? A society where everything is transactional and that tries to tell us our worth by what we do and not who we are. But we have freedom in Christ who, on the cross, made that one transaction for all time, who tells us our real worth as Children of God and nothing can change that, nothing. And with that freedom we get to live lives that make no sense to the world. To pray daily, give freely, love unconditionally and serve our neighbour without expecting anything in return. It’s truly amazing.
But the message of the cross is not just about resurrection and transformation. The act of the Christ being crucified and God going down into hell shows that there is no place God won’t go. God won’t be without us. There is nowhere he won’t go as He wants to walk with us.
Which reminds me of the footprints in the sand poem. You know the one that goes “One night I dreamed I was walking along the beach with the Lord. Sometimes there were two sets of footprints, other times there were one set of footprints. This bothered me so ask God, Why, when I needed you most, you have not been there for me? And The Lord replied, “The times when you have seen only one set of footprints, is when I carried you.”
On the internet, someone has elaborated the poem and added God saying ‘and see that long groove? That is where I dragged you kicking and screaming’!
Sometimes that’s how my journey to this point has felt because I have had to rely on God’s idea of wisdom and not in the strength of my own.
Further on in the passage tonight’s scripture reading came from is the line ‘But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise’. So the foolishness of God extends to who He chooses to do His work. Which, when you look around the church, explains a lot really!
There are times when I refuse to see His love despite all that God has done. But that’s ok because God knows what a foolish thing I am and in fact so are we all. He knows our days are but as grass. We flourish like flowers in a field and then are gone. And that makes us uncomfortable for we realise that however knowledgeable or powerful we think we are, whatever highly academic clever questions we can think of or skills we can muster, our wisdom compared to the wisdom of God is foolishness.
The cross is a place we can turn to and let go of all our doubts and fears. That is gift of the cross. God is not asking for perfection just a willingness to try. He asks for a revaluation of our values behind our practices.. to think about if you’re doing things because you want to be good or doing things because you have been over whelmed by God’s love so much that you’re natural response is to love others unconditionally?
So how does the cross challenge us today? What reminders do we have that continually prompt us out of comfortable lives? I have this holding cross. I can hold it when I need to feel close to God. Yes, it comforts but also it serves as a reminder that God knows suffering. He knows our suffering deeper than we do. But His foolish wisdom speaks through our egocentric lives and cuts deep into our hearts with His Love beyond understanding.