By Rev Angela Bosfield Palacious
The prayers, Scriptures and hymns of the church are rich with the theology of the cross, and its challenges to evoke a response from every believer. Let us consider together what the impact of Holy Cross Day (September 14) can have on each one of us.
The prayers of the church, commonly called collects and found in the Book of Common Prayer, speak with great power of the reality of the cross, and of the one who "willingly endured the agony and shame of the cross for our redemption, and "was lifted high upon the cross that he might draw the whole world to Himself." They remind us to pray for courage and grace to take up our cross and follow Him. Finally, they point us to the guidance of the Holy Spirit as the way to accomplish God's will: "O God, because without you we are not able to please you, mercifully grant that your Holy Spirit may in all things direct and rule our hearts…"
There are many Scriptures that draw our attention to God's desire to save all persons everywhere. For example in Isaiah, God says "turn to me and be saved, all the ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other...Only in the Lord, it shall be said of me are righteousness and strength" (Isaiah 45: 22-4 NRSV). In the gospel of John, Our Lord, Jesus Christ is quoted as saying: "Now is the judgement of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself" (John 12:31-32 NRSV).
In Paul's letter to the Philippians we are implored to follow the example of Our Lord: "Let them same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus…[who] emptied himself…humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death--even death on a cross" (Philippians 5-8 NRSV). We are forced to consider our own level of obedience and readiness to trust God if asked to follow a particular course of action even when we do not understand the reasons why.
In the hymns of the church, the cross is described as a precious healing fountain that is available to all persons, and a place to watch, wait, hope and trust in the Lord (Jesus, Keep Me Near the Cross). Its demands are to be willingly met and "its shame and reproach to be gladly endured" (The Old Rugged Cross), by all of "every race and language" whose souls have been saved from death and hell (Lift High the Cross). The picture of two outstretched arms on a cross in front of an open grave (Beneath the Cross of Jesus), is all we really need to focus our attention on our "blood bought free reward" (There is a Fountain Filled with Blood). We are moved to individually admit that "love so amazing, so divine" must indeed demand "my soul, my life, my all" (When I Survey the Wondrous Cross). They motivate us to bear our daily cross and "do our Father's will" (Lord, as to Thy Dear Cross we Flee).
For those who never made a commitment to Jesus Christ, reflect on these words from Peter's sermon in Acts 2:36-39 GNT: "Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah."
When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, "Brothers, what shall we do?" Peter replied, "Repent and be baptised, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off--for all whom the Lord our God will call."
What then is our response in the final analysis? Does all of this evidence arrest our daily "business as usual" and make us ready to "stand up for Jesus" and carry our cross daily? Meditate for the rest of the week on these words of Our Lord found in Matthew 16:24-27 GNT, and learn how to apply them in your own life: "Then Jesus said to his disciples, "If any of you want to come with me, you must forget yourself, carry your cross, and follow me. For if you want to save your own life, you will lose it; but if you lose your life for my sake, you will find it. Will you gain anything if you win the whole world but lose your life? Of course not! There is nothing you can give to regain your life. For the Son of Man is about to come in the glory of his Father with his angels, and then he will reward each one according to his deeds."