Messiah Lutheran Church 6201 W Patterson Av
Chicago IL 60634

March 2018

The Sweet Sign of the Cross!

If you look around Messiah's beautiful sanctuary, you will see lots of crosses (e.g. on the cover of our hymnals, on our paraments, at the center of our altar in the form of a crucifix, etc.).

In contrast, the biggest church in America (Lake Wood Church in Houston) doesn't have a single cross in its sanctuary. Likewise, the biggest church in the Chicagolancl area (Willow Creek Community Church in Barrington) doesn't have a single cross in its sanctuary, either.

But even though there may exist "cross-less" churches, the cross remains the most recognized symbol of Christianity!

For it was on a cross that our Savior died in order that we might be forgiven of all our sins and inherit eternal life in heaven.

The cross also serves to remind us that as followers of Jesus, we have been called to deny ourselves and carry our own crosses in this life (see Mt 10:38, Mt 16:24, and Lk 14:27). As Romans 8:17 puts it "Now if we are children, then we are heirs--heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory." And 2 Timothy 2:12 promises, "If we endure, we will also reign with Him".

This Lenten Season, we have been focusing on different versions of the cross and their meanings for our Christian walk. Unlike the cross-less churches and their cross-less teachings, Jesus was very clear about the reality of the cross to his followers"

As He says to the disciples in Mark 8:31-32, " ... the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed,

and after three days rise again. And he said this plainly." When he heard this, Peter reacted by taking Jesus aside and rebuking him. But Jesus responded to Peter's rebuke by rebuking him even stronger, saying, "Get behind me, Satan! For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man" (Romans 8:33).

Peter failed to understand the importance of the cross; but instead wanted to experience the indulgence of glory. Peter's words reveal a problem larger than a mere

misunderstanding. He didn't want a cross that saves, and he didn't want a Christ who brings salvation.

And Peter's problem still plagues people today. For Satan will try to convince LIS that the real symbol of our faith is not the cross of Jesus but a crown of glory and a cushion of ease. And that is why Jesus must say to us and to our sinful nature, "Get behind me, Satan. You do not have in mind the things of God but the things of men."

For this ancient symbol of death and shame has now become for us as Christians a symbol of life and forgiveness. It is a symbol of beauty, for it portrays the depth of God's love for us in Jesus and the goal of the mission of the Church to "lift high the cross, the love of Christ proclaim, 'till all the world proclaim His sacred name"!

The cross is not only a symbol of our Savior, it is also a symbol of our Christian life. As Jesus goes on to say, 'If anyone would come after me, he must denv himself and take up his cross and follow me.'" (Mk 8:34)

As we live in the shadow of Christ's cross, while on this earth, we gladly bear our own crosses even to the point of death, because the Lord Jesus who rose from the dead and defeated the grave for us has a crown of life in store for us in heaven"

Hot cross buns are traditionally baked during the Lenten Season, their most popular day being Good Friday, when they are served to commemorate Christ's suffering on the cross. In fact, at one time "hot cross buns" were known as "Good Friday buns".

According to history, hot cross buns date back to the iz'' century, when an Anglican Priest was said to have placed the sign of the cross on some buns to honor Good Friday. Hot cross buns are usually spiced and have a sweet frosted cross on the top.

And, here's the application that hot cross bun have for us, based upon an event found at the end of the is" chapter in the book of Exodus. After the Israelites entered the Promised Land, they could find no water to drink from. And even when they happened to find a pool of water, it was too bitter to drink from, so they called iit "Marah" meaning bitter. But then God told Moses to throw a tree into the bitter pool of "Marah" and its water became sweet!

And, so the frosting of the hot cross buns serves to remind us that through the cross of Jesus, our bitter lives can be made sweet.

While sin came into this world and brought bitter: sufferings and death, through Christ's sacrificial death on the cross, our lives can be made sweet through the forgiveness of our sins along with the hope of eternal life in heaven.

This past Ash Wednesday, we received the mark of the cross, not with frosting, but with ashes - reminding us that dust we are and to dust we shall return. The ash marks on our foreheads marked us as sinners deserving of nothing but death and both temporal and eternal punishment.

But in addition to marking us as sinners, the ashes made in the sign of the cross served to remind us that Christ the crucified rose on the third day for the forgiveness of ou r sins and to give us life everlasting.

Hence, on Ash Wednesday, we bore the mark of the cross not as a mark of shame and defeat, but as a sign of our victorious status in Christ. Through the cross, Jesus has given us beauty for ashes. And at the end of the day, we were able to wash that mark away, as a reminder that Jesus has made it possible for all our sins to be washed away through His work on the cross that has been conveyed to us in the waters of Holy Baptism, where we received the sign of the holy cross both upon our foreheads and upon our hearts to mark us as ones redeemed by Christ the crucified.

2 Timothy 4:3 warns, "For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear."

Despite the attempts of false teachers to offer a cross-less version of Christianity in an attempt to please others, there isn't a more fitting symbol to display in a house of worship, like Messiah's, than a cross.

May this traditional symbol of Christianity serve as a constant reminder to you that through His work on the cross, Jesus has given you sweet victory over sin, death and the devil!

Your Servant,
Pastor Wendt

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