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Archive for September 14th, 2018

Appointed Scripture Readings: Numbers 21:4-9   Psalm 40:1-11   1 Corinthians 1:18-25   St. John 12:20-35

Let us pray…

Merciful God, Your Son, Jesus Christ, was lifted high upon the cross that He might bear the sins of the world and draw all people to Himself. Grant that we who glory in His death for our redemption may faithfully heed His call to bear the cross and follow Him, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God,  now and forever.

One of the earliest annual celebrations of the Church, Holy Cross Day traditionally commemorated the discovery of the original cross of Jesus on September 14, 320, in Jerusalem. The cross was found by Helena, mother of Roman Emperor Constantine the Great. In conjunction with the dedication of a basilica at the site of Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection, the festival day was made official by order of Constantine in AD 335. A devout Christian,Helena had helped locate and authenticate many sites related to the life, ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus throughout biblical lands. Holy Cross Day has remained popular in both Eastern and Western Christianity. Many Lutheran parishes have chosen to use “Holy Cross” as the name of their congregation. (From The Treasury of Daily Prayer, published by Concordia Publishing House)

“Holy Cross Day has remained popular in both Eastern and Western Christianity.”  The popular understanding of the word “popular” is intimately connected with everything from TV shows to movie ‘stars’ to a favorite food.  Popularity means fame and desirability.    People want what you have.  The Holy Cross of Jesus, in that sense of the word “popular”, has never been terribly popular. The image below is the Palatine Graffito, maybe the earliest depiction of the crucifixion.

“Discovered in 1856, a well known graffito from the Palatine Hill in Rome, dated to the third century A.D., depicts a crucified figure with the head of an ass. Facing the crucified is a smaller, beardless man clad in a tunic, his left hand raised in supplication. A crudely lettered  inscription reads:…“Alexamenos worships (his) god.”” The drawing was discovered in one of the rooms of a building which served as a training school for imperial guards….(the) image was meant as a parody of the faith of a Christian convert by one of his fellow soldiers.  (“The Palatine Graffito: A Mimic Interpretation by L. L. Welborn, Fordham University, Macquarie University)

The mocking of Christ and the atonement has been around for a long time. This is a reminder of the “foolishness” of the Cross and the preaching of Christ and Him crucified in the first centuries of the Church as the Apostle Paul attests in today’s Epistle Reading:

For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles.

God die a sinner’s death?  No way. IN our wisdom, we just can not wrap our heads around the crucified God and His love to bear our sin and be our Savior and so in many subtle ways the Holy Cross is derided in these day:

  • the doctrine of the atonement by His blood is not preached and taught in many churches, especially by feminists who believe Christ on the Cross was “divine child abuse”;  

  • mega-congregations do not have a cross in sight in their church buildings as church growth taught not to mention the cross as it is not an uplifting sign and we go to church for positive experiences and to feel good.

  • our good works save us. 

The derision of the sign that “God so loved the world” keeps on being promulgated.  The Cross of our Savior has been mocked even more crudely than the Palatine Graffito.  In 1986,  an artist’s work entitled “Piss Christ” in which a crucifix is in a container of the artist’s urine.  This work won accolades.

When I have listened to popular evangelical preachers, it always seems that the crucifixion of our Lord is at best, some past event by which the Lord redeemed the world. It is but His death and resurrection is needed by us everyday. but seldom is Christ and Him crucified preached and taught, and administered in the Sacraments of Holy Baptism and the Altar as the Lord Emmanuel, God with us, for us today. The Epistle readings says “we preach”:  present tense.  In St. Paul’s first letter to Timothy, 1:15, the Apostle wrote:

The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. (Emphasis added)

The meaning of Holy Cross Day is the Lord Jesus: a present tense Savior for present tense sinners. As Luther Biblically taught the present tense Savior for us today in Part IV of Baptism in the Small Catechism:

What does such baptizing with water indicate?–Answer.It indicates that the old Adam in us should, by daily contrition and repentance, be drowned and die with all sins and evil lusts, and, again, a new man daily come forth and arise; who shall live before God in righteousness and purity forever.

Where is this written?–Answer.  St. Paul says Romans, chapter 6We are buried with Christ by Baptism into deaththatlike as He was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Fathereven so we also should walk in newness of life.

There are crosses everywhere especially on necklaces.  The cross is even much talked about in churches.  Cross, cross and yet there is no cross, that is, as Fr. Luther pointed out:  the drowning of the old Adam in “daily contrition and repentance”.  We need the eternal fruit from the Cross, Christ Himself, day by day. 

Helena who found the cross in Jerusalem was the mother of the Emperor (Caesar) Constantine.  Constantine said of the Cross: Hic Signo Vinces, “By this Sign, you will conquer”.  Even more, by this sign, we are conquered and are more than conquerors through Him who loved us  (Romans 8: 37) and gave Himself up for us all.

The Apostle Paul knew that the preaching of Christ and Him crucified, the Word of the Cross, is folly to those who are perishing, who deny it. He also knew in Corinth that the preaching of  Christ and Him crucified created faith in so many.  So,  why deny it?  By His crucifixion and resurrection, we are changed and the Old Adam with the devil’s assistance, will do their damn worse to stop the Lord’s salvation.  So we rejoice as the Scripture proclaims:

 For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. (1 Cor. 1: 25)

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