Tuesday, February 2, 2010

The old rugged cross...

We are very blessed in our church to have a very wizened retired preacher who still teaches a Sunday school class.  Ralph Hessel is a frequent source of inspiration, and one of his many comments has been bouncing around in my head for a while.  The topic that came up was the ubiquitousness of cross necklaces, and Ralph mentioned that for all the beautiful, jeweled crosses we like to wear, he would like to see more people wearing crosses with blood on them.  For the numerous issues that I have with Catholic theology, the older crucifixes with a bleeding Christ is one place where they are looking in the right the direction.  Crucifixion is one of the most painful, drawn out methods of execution that mankind has come up with.  While there is debate over whether the nails actually go through the hands or are behind the wrist, in between the two forearm bones, either way has weight pulling on muscle, iron grinding on bone, along with being left to die from exposure, sped up with breaking the legs if needed, on top of the likely police brutality before the execution all adds up to a long, inhumane torturous death. 

Our fancy jewelry can make us forget the brutality of the cross.  The nice bronze crosses up on the walls of our homes or at the front of the sanctuary can do the same thing. We see them around the necks of rappers spitting out all kinds of sex and violence, oblivious the the meaning of what they are wearing.  Crosses are little more to some than a lucky charm.  Would these same folks wear a cross of wood and bloodstains and nails instead of platinum and diamonds?  I'm sure the goths wouldn't mind the switch, but what about the rest of us? 

The sanitizing of Christianity comes to mind when looking at these things.  Instead of a cross smeared with blood and other gore, Christians are decorated with precious metals and jewels.  We don't discuss the how Stephen died, instead focusing only on his words as he died.  Think for a moment about how a person dies when being stoned, another ugly death that many believers have suffered over the centuries.  The world likes to think that the church is anti-sex, and the mindset has creeped into parts of the Body.  Read the Song of Solomon, folks, whether you're a believer or not.  It will knock out a number of preconceived ideas.  The whole Old Testament is full of sex, murder, war, and deceit.  In their right context, all of those events are great teaching tools.

I'm with Ralph.  It's very hard to appreciate what happened on that hill 2000 some odd years ago while looking at a sculpted piece of silver or gold.  I'd like to see more blood on our own brows, whether it be from accepting the worldly crown of thorns we carry, or from praying with the same intensity of Jesus on the Mount of Olives.  I'd like to see us using more of our own failings for those teaching moments, not just learning ourselves, but sharing them with others so they can learn the way we can learn from those Old Testament tales.  When statistics like divorce show little or no difference between the church and the world, we definitely need to see the blood on the cross. 

1 comment:

  1. I agree that we try to glorify the cross. It was a very painful and ugly way to die. But I look at the empty cross and know that death did not hold him. The empty cross represents the risen Christ. We can't have one without the other. There is both ugliness of a death and a beauty for the hope given by a risen Christ in the cross.