Approaching the Cross: Defining Love

As we begin our series on the Cross this Lent, today is a day we crest the hill and begin to see the lights of a far away city and get a sense of its scope. Not every detail will be visible mind you, and it never will be in this story, but we will begin to get a sense of things. 


The center of the good news is a cross upon which the son of God, a man named Jesus, died.  And it is often talked about as a God’s love.
Love has a lot of meanings these days:

  1. I love snow and ice – said no one ever – after the first few inches.
  2. I love the sun shine and warmth
  3. I love being productive.
  4. love my job.
  5. I love when the story all works out happily ever after.
  6. I love __________ fill in the blank based on your situation (friend, spouse, kids, parents)
  7. I love the cross?

Well, yes…but then again…no…I don’t love the fact that Jesus hung on the cross and died in total and utter despair and loneliness. I don’t love that it should have been me. I don’t love that the process was horrific.


Crucifixion was the most degrading form of execution, reserved for non-Roman criminals who were slaves or free persons of the lowest status. 

Keener, Craig S. The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1993. Print.


Flogging until inches of your death. Walk of shame through streets carrying the instrument of your destruction. Out of town in a public place, usually near a well-traveled road, you would march and carry your cross. Upon reaching your final destination you would either be tied or nailed to the cross bar and left to hang until you drown in your own bodily fluids.

I would be a messed up person to say I loved any of that…and yet…this was exactly how God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit showed us what love looks like. The love we see from the cross is a far cry from the one we espouse today. 


The cross of Christ says that love

  1. Takes life seriously
    1. this life counts, what we do and do not do matters. God is at the ready to move life forward, with all of creation, until it and we reach our intended in which is to glorify him.
  2. Does nothing by fiat
    1. everything by working in and through us. Doesn’t wave a wand and make it happen rather takes up residence with us and sees us through.
    2. God is a hands-on king, ruler, redeemer, and friend.
  3. Becomes victorious through unconventional means
    1. at the name of Jesus every knee should bend.
    2. by his wounds / weaknesses we are healed.
    3. faith in Christ and not your own work
  4. Practices humility
    1. he humbled himself – and became obedient to the point of death – even death on a cross.
    2. Romans 2:4 – God’s kindness leads us to repentance

Love says I can.Love says I will.

Capable and compassionate. These are the two things upon which rests all of our hope. This is the type of love God showed, and gave on the cross.


With God’s help, I can be faithful to you. And I will for the rest of my life.


With God’s help, I can stand shoulder to shoulder with you in your (fill in the blank: loss, depression, doubt, fear, anxiety). And I will for as long as it takes.


With God’s help, I can forgive you. And I will not hold a grudge.

top3 for February 19, 2021

Before you start your weekend, here are a few things that caught my attention this week. Enjoy and have a great weekend!

#1

I very frequently get the question, ‘What’s going to change in the next 10 years?’  I almost never get the question: ‘What’s not going to change in the next 10 years?’ And I submit to you that that second question is actually the more important

– Jeff Bezos

While it feels that so much of our world is changing, the church can take great comfort in the fact that God is the same yesterday, today and forever. God is the only certainty in an uncertain world. Therefore, the people of God are uniquely qualified to not only answer the question but to offer a helping hand through it.

What won’t change in the next 10 years?

As I’ve already mentioned, God is not about to change. Nor is our God-given mission of making disciples. In ten years, and beyond, we will continue to need to be involved in justice and mercy for all people. And the desire to belong in a community to support and be supported is not going away.

#2

“afterlife of slavery”: limited access to health care and education, premature death, incarceration, and impoverishment — the “skewed life chances” that Black people still face, and the furious desire for freedom that comes with them. ‘Did slavery ever really end?’

 How Saidiya Hartman Retells the History of Black Life

The above quote is very similar to what Ibram X. Kendi says in his book Stamped from the Beginning below. Slaves were rightfully concerned that Lincoln’s emancipation declaration would lead to a different kind of injustice and enslavement. Both of these quotes remind us that the fight for equality must continue. May we not let our guard down and think the job is done when the facts and data show that disparity remains and in some ways is accelerating.

Don’t free us only to enslave us in other ways. Don’t think the job is done when we can walk away from the plantation. We need ability to have jobs, education, economic viability, equality in the marketplace, government, and townsquare. Until that is achieve we have traded one form of slavery for another.

#3

What I want to say, countering the devil, is that in order to read the Scriptures adequately and accurately, it is necessary at the same time to live them.

Eugene Peterson from Eat this Book

Our discipleship intensive groups give me a hard time for liking this book so much. It is routinely one of the books least liked…and I’ll just assume least read too!🙂 But it is full of great wisdom and the above quote is one of them.

You can’t understand apart from doing Scripture. I know my grammar is lacking there, but you hopefully get the point. Jesus did not say go and make students rather he said go and make disciples. Now…learning is part of being a disciple for sure! But it is the means and not the end game of discipleship.

One question I routinely ask myself when reading Scripture is this – What is this Scripture calling me to do? It has been really helpful to open my life up to the possibility that God’s word may very well be speaking into something in real time. I almost come to expect it or at least am not so surprised as often.

The Cross: What an Odd Symbol

We sing the praise of him who died, Of him who died upon the cross; The sinner’s hope let men deride; For this we count the world but loss.


for the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us being saved it is the power of God.

1 Cor. 1:18 –


When I say bald eagle, what immediately comes to your mind? The USA of course.
What about when you see an interlocking U and K? You got it. A smile on the side of a package or truck? Sure…Amazon.

A cross – Christianity. But what an odd way to brand a movement. A horrific symbol of death. Foolish.

Crucifixion was saved for the worst of the worst to not only be an execution but an example. Established by barbarians on the fringes of society and co-opted by the Romans and Greeks as tools to quell opposition. It was meant to inflict maximum torture before a gruesome death. It was meant to convey to any potential enemies…don’t make waves or this will be you too!

Cicero, one of the Roman rulers, said that “to bind a Roman citizen is a crime, to flog him is an abomination, to kill him is almost an act of murder, to crucify him? What? There is no fitting word that can describe so horrible a deed.”
To the Jews crucifixion was equal to hanging on a tree. A lynching in our day’s vernacular. And those who hang upon a tree Deu. 21:23 says that those are under the curse of God. A cursed Messiah? Foolish.

If it were me, I would have considered an ark…that would be a nice branding symbol. Or a fish for the fishers of men statement by Jesus to his disciples. Or a tree like in Psalm 1 planted by a stream never loses its leaves and having fruit in all season. What about a grape for Jesus said he was the vine and we were the branches which would produce fruit if we stayed close. A stone? For the stone that was rolled from Jesus and Lazarus’ grave. What about a church building to signify people in worship? I mean come on, we could come up with something more uplifting and more marketable without trying too hard. A cross? Foolish.

When I survey the wondrous cross on which the Prince of Glory died. My richest gain I count but loss and pour contempt on all my pride

Jesus’ entire life casts a shadow toward his death on the cross. He says it (Mark 9:31). He shows it in his deeds. He even demands it of his followers by saying, “deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow me.” But they refused to believe…and we follow in their unbelief that death on a cross can bring hope for this life and the one to come. But it did, and it does.

for the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us being saved it is the power of God.

1 Cor. 1:18 –

Lent is a journey to Easter. A season of preparation for those of faith. All journeys to Easter must follow Jesus’ original journey to Easter which took him to, not around, the cross. For this season we seek to understand more fully and love more deeply our Lord and Savior and this is not possible without embracing his cross. It is not pleasant but it neither is it negotiable.

Anglican scholar Bishop Stephen Neill correctly asserts that, “the death of Christ is the central point of history; here all the roads of the past converge (come together); hence all the roads of the future diverges (begin).”

Now, I call us as a congregation to prepare ourselves for this journey through the cross to Easter. If we offer ourselves in the example of self-sacrifice given to us by Jesus on the cross, we too will experience the very salvation of God.

Forbid it Lord that I should boast, Save in the death of Christ my God. All vain things that charm me most, I sacrifice them to his blood.

In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.

Lent 2021 – Ash Wednesday

We sing the praise of him who died,

Of him who died upon the cross;

The sinner’s hope let men deride;

For this we count the world but loss.

We Sing the Praise of Him Who Died by Thomas Kelly (1815)

When I survey the wondrous cross

on which the Prince of Glory died,

My richest gain I count but loss

and pour contempt on all my pride.

Forbid it Lord that I should boast

save in the death of Christ, my God;

All vain things that charm me most,

When I Survey the Wondrous Cross by Isaac Watts (1707)