Two Reasons I Love the Cross
March 25, 2005
The Rev. Dr. Anthony J. Godlefski, Pastor
Montgomery United Methodist Church
John 18:1 – 19:42
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, good afternoon.
My mother used to love to tell the story of a scene that she saw in Poland in many places. She said that, when traveling from one village to another, the road would often divide. From the main road, there would be a branch toward one village, and on the other side, a branch toward another. She said they had a custom in Poland that whenever they saw such a road, they called it a crossroads. They would put up a cross, a shrine, a symbol of Jesus upon the cross. It would be at the center of the crossroad. It might have a backing and a roof and perhaps a flower box beneath, with flowers planted in a circle below. She said it was a marvelous sight. It reminded people that, whichever road you take, you go with God.
Friends, today I’d like us to remember that beautiful scripture from Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians that says, “God was in Christ, reconciling the world to Himself.” And in light of that, I’d like to talk with you today about two reasons I love the cross.
Just as there were two roads branching off from that main road, the cross says two very important things to us. One arm of Christ reaches out to us from the cross, and on God’s behalf says to us, “I forgive. I forgive. All that has been done in the world that breaks the heart of God, I forgive.” All the imbalance, all the wrongness of the world, is balanced out by the cross of Christ. He forgives. Through all the burden of guilt that we might carry and that might pull us backward instead of forward, God says “Don’t look back; I forgive.” Take the power of the cross for yourself, and know that you are forgiven.
Oh, that’s the good news, my friend, and that’s one of the most important reasons for us to love the cross. Author C.S. Lewis says that most Christians aren’t really very big sinners. They’re rather small in the sin department. All of us have made mistakes and done things that we regret. All of us have broken rules from time to time. All of us have sinned in some way or other, or most have. But even in his words, perhaps “not very large sins.” But, dear friend, is it not good to know that if there are large sins upon one’s heart, if there is a feeling of guilt or grief that is difficult to forgive one’s self for, if there is the feeling “how could God ever accept me again?”, there is the arm of Christ reaching out and saying, “Come in, dear child.” “I can take care of you,” says the Lord.
I have known soldiers with such burdens on their hearts. I know of another man who carries an enormous burden of guilt with him everyday. He’s a good man. The situation he grieves is not entirely his fault, but he’s a man of sensitive heart. What shall he do? What shall he do to feel right with God again? And I say to him, “The cross, my friend, the cross of Christ reaches out to you and says, ‘Don’t be burdened by this guilt. Bring it to the foot of the cross and confess it and let it go.’” The arm of Jesus reaches out and says, “I forgive.” Won’t you take it to yourself? Won’t you take it for whatever burdens hold you back? Say, “Dear Lord God, I cannot balance it out myself, but by the grace of God, Jesus Christ can.”
There is another road going off, on the other side of the cross, the other arm of the cross. And that arm of God says, “I understand.” You see, like a revolving door, one arm brings us toward God, and the other arm brings God toward us. I believe with all my heart – and, dear friends, this has been so much on my mind to tell you – that yes! through the power of the cross we are forgiven, but yes! through the power of the cross we are understood. Friend, I believe with all my heart that the message of God, through the cross of Christ, is to say, “Dear, dear broken-hearted child, I understand, and I am with you. I would not spare my own child from the grief of the world I created, from the grief that you experience. I would not spare Him so that you and I could be together in our grief.”
And if you know what broken-heartedness is about, if you have shaken your fist at heaven and said, “Dear God, why? Why?” God reaches back through the cross and says, “I understand. I’m with you in your sorrow, in your loss, in your grief, in your pain.”
Can we come to a love greater than this, that would bind itself to us forever from the heavenly places so that we may not be alone, either in our joy or in our sorrow? The two arms of the cross, the two roads that branch off at Christ’s crossroads, say, “Child, you are forgiven. Broken-hearted one, I understand. And I am with you always.”
May the cross of Christ be a blessing to you. May it be dear to you. May it be your consolation, your hope, and the symbol of the everlasting love of God, dear friend. As you contemplate the cross, know that you are forgiven, and you are understood. God bless you, my friend. Let us remember, in the words of evangelist Tony Campolo, “Friday’s here, but Sunday’s coming.” God loves you. I do, too. Amen.
© 2005 Anthony J. Godlefski