The Old Rugged Cross

AC8D8788-9CA2-429C-B01C-F40E325FCF00

 Crux sola nostra theologica est

The cross alone is our theology.   ~Martin Luther 

This Wednesday morning, June 27, early in the morning, a single steel cross was attached to the “bell tower” of our new church.  I am saddened I am out of town and was unable to witness this.  Thanks to Trustees Luke and Karl for being there and recording the event for us.

The great religious traditions crystallize theology and narrative into symbols and very often we can see those symbols and identify immediately whose symbol it is.  There are all kinds of problems with these meta-symbols that sometimes make it difficult for people to appreciate their power and their positive contribution.  Suffice it to say, religious symbols can become polluted.  A modern example of a polluted symbol would be the Nazi emblem or the Marxist hammer and sickle.  Persons with all kinds of terrible agendas have taken religious symbols and hidden their perfidy behind them. Think of the klansman who hides behind a burning cross.  So it is not surprising that some people have argued for giving up these religious symbols, fearing their pollution makes them at the least irrelevant and at worst, irredeemable.

I’m not persuaded.  I do not believe for example, that Americans who believe in freedom and justice should give up the flag to the brassy patriots who preach hatred and are blighted by xenophobia.  Sorry, you do not get to have a monopoly on the flag.  Nor should Christians allow hateful persons to have sole possession of the Cross. You do not get to own  our most cherished symbols.   The Cross is not yours to have.  So why erect a cross on our church? Why is it important?

One of the earliest hymns I can remember learning was The Old Rugged Cross.  In the very first verse, it captures the reason why we place this symbol on our building:

On a hill far away, stood an old rugged Cross

The emblem of suff’ring and shame

And I love that old Cross where the dearest and best

For a world of lost sinners was slain…

The Cross, despite those who used it for vile and violent purposes, does not endorse sacrifice or violence. It is a symbol opposed to these.  We follow a Savior who was innocently slain, who suffered and died and from his suffering and death, we have come to learn that God has and will overcome death and suffering.  It is an emblem of suffering and shame and reminds us that our own redemption was costly.  Words from that cross were uttered that asked forgiveness for those who harmed him; words were spoken from that cross that speak the human condition—why am I forsakenI thirst!  And from that cross the words of faith and the belief in a power greater than all the empires and tyrants of the world was expressed:  into thy hands, I commend my spirit.

I wish I could witness this moment in the life of our new building but pictures will be taken and I’ll see it soon enough. And besides, I’ve been witnessing the power of the Cross my entire life.  The ground is level there.  We are all beggars searching for mercy and grace.  Indeed, the Cross alone is our theology.

Don’t miss worship this Sunday as we gather with Westminster Presbyterian.  There is a sweet spirit in our worship and a remarkable and striking sign of the Beloved Community that can empower you in these dim days of a reckless government. “At the cross, at the cross, where I first saw the light…”