"And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself" (John 12:32)
Many are keenly interested in ancestry and family heritage and most of us are eager to understand our value systems and that which motivates our behavior. Much time, energy, and money are expended in achieving goals, security, and success; it is important for individuals to mature in a healthy manner. For some, advantages of health, intelligence, and material sources, and social connections greatly enhance the process of development. For others, there are fewer gifts. For a Christian person the Cross of Jesus Christ compels an interpretation and refinement of those very human needs and desires.
The theology of the Cross tells that in Christ all are cherished, loved and special. "See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and that is what we are. Beloved, we are God's children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed. What we know is this: when he is revealed, we will be like him, for we will see him as he is." (1 John 3: 1 - 2). In the Catechism of the Prayer Book (page 846) the reader is reminded that the universe is good, and that it is the work of a single loving God who creates, sustains, and directs it. The world belongs to its creator and we human beings are called to enjoy it and to care for it in accordance with God's purposes. All people are worthy of respect and honor because all are created in the image of God, and all can respond to the love of God.
With such assurance it should follow that men and women would be most happy, healthy, and creative. The reality of our human situation is the reverse. We hate more than we love; we shun more than we welcome: we waste more than we develop and we deface more than we enhance. We are quite capable of making a muddle of our lives and those of others. The theological term for that muddle is sin. The definition of sin in the Prayer Book's Catechism is "the seeking of our own will instead of the will of God, thus distorting our relationship with God, with other people, and with all creation. Sin has power over us because we lose our liberty when our relationship with God is distorted." (pages 848-849) The power of sin is incredibly damaging. We forget that we are God's beloved, that others are equally loved, and that the created world is God's. Sin can enslave. "All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." (Romans 3:23)
God who is love does not wish the beloved to be enslaved by sin or to live in a distorted way. God's love is so immense that God has given His very life in Jesus Christ; a love to set us free from the power of evil, sin, and death. Love is never coerced; it must be freely given and willingly received. How strange that anyone would resist God's love; yet we do. We choose sin's distortion over the purity of Divine Grace. In a distorted life, one depends entirely on the desires, impulses, and fantasies of our bodies and minds. Such a life is destructive; it cannot survive.
It is a false life.
Jesus said "whoever loses his life for my sake will find it." God comes to us in love. When opportunities for love present themselves a mature person will surrender the self and will grow in the capacity to love. God comes to us in every chance to love. When we dare to accept God's love we move beyond self-preoccupation; we abandon the figments of imagination that sap our energies; and we lose selfishness as we seek to serve the other. The message of the Cross is the reality and power of God's redemptive love for humankind. God's Grace is the gift of true life in this world and the hope of eternal life.
The story of the Cross is our legacy of God's redeeming love; a love so generous that it encompasses all who will accept it. "And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself." (John 12:32) When he was Dean of the Cathedral of Saint Peter and Saint Paul, Washington, D.C., Francis B. Sayre wrote a devotional guidebook for the National Cathedral. His words from The Cross have been very dear to me. I share them with you:
"The Cross, the shape of Christ's dying, his agony and our reproach; the utter fallibility of everything in this world which one day must perish, even the sacred things we most cherish. But it is too, the shape of our hope, recalling the place where God redeemed the death of his Son, and forgave us for it and lifted us with him to a wholly new kind of life which can never be taken away.
The Cross is a new plane of existence that cuts across our little tracks, one that is beyond death itself, yet entered through it. It is beyond pain, and yet discovered in pain; beyond all defects and betrayed, yet meeting us precisely there. This is the Cross of Christ in the midst of which we meet, which He holds out to us, at that busy intersection where His life and ours are intertwined, where sometimes we see His body hanging and sometimes see only the bare wood because He is no longer there. He is risen.