On January 2nd I walked into Sainsbury's and immediately through the door I was confronted by a display of Hot Cross Buns! And I thought to myself, "Goodness gracious me - we haven't finished with Christmas yet; we haven't welcomed the Wise Men yet, we haven't celebrated Epiphany yet, and here we have already swept Christmas aside to make room for the next commercial venture - Hot Cross Buns for Easter!"
It stopped me in my tracks and made me pause to think: I found myself meditating on the Cross, because just as the Christmas message is not just for Christmas, but for all people, for all time, so the message of the Cross is not just for Good Friday and Easter, but for all people and for all time.
The cross ✘is one of the simplest forms of calligraphy, and it conveys rich meanings for people throughout the world. Give a child his/her first pencil, and what will he/she do? Grab it like a chisel and gouge out a ✘ on the paper. It is easier for people of all educational standards to make a ✘ than a ✓; that is why at the next general election we will be asked to put a ✘against the candidate of our choice, rather than a ✓, and in doing so we are saying, "This is the person for me". The ✘is a symbol of CHOICE.
The CROSS of Christianity is also a symbol of choice. It symbolizes that God is choosing you and me and all humanity to be His disciples and follow His ways, and live to His Glory. He wants the best for us, wants us to live lives full of meaning and purpose and hope (John 3:16; 10:10). To respond to the call of the ✘means something so simple and basic as learning to LOVE GOD AND OUR NEIGHBOUR AS OURSELF (Mark 12:33). This is what God is calling us to - what wonderful people we would be if we really responded - what a wonderful world it would be if we all responded.
We all agree that this is the basis of satisfying, responsible civilised living - it sounds so simple - but is it? The answer sadly is NO.
Another meaning of the ✘is NO -STOP IT : START AGAIN. Cast your mind back to your school days - you have just submitted your maths homework to be marked, and when it comes back there are more ✘s than ✓s on the page!
WRONG - START AGAIN - WORK IT OUT AGAIN -TRY HARDER.
And so it is with the Christian ✘. It means there are certain things in life we must avoid, acknowledge as wrong, and as responsible human beings we must always endeavour to do what is good and right, not what is bad and wrong.
The General Confession (in the Anglican Book of Common Prayer) reminds us that "we have all strayed from Thy ways like lost sheep", and St Paul quite blatently tells us, " we have all sinned and come short of the Glory of God. (Rom 3:23)
The only way out of this mess is to choose Jesus, let His Spirit penetrate our very being, make our confession, receive His forgiveness, (1 John 1:19) and experience NEW LIFE IN CHRIST JESUS. (2 Cor :17)
And so we come to the crux of the whole matter. How we have struggled with our children to get them to write Thank You letters for their Christmas and birthday presents. When they eventually got around to it they were very short on words but very profuse in kisses, ✘✘✘ - would cover half the page, and of course ✘means "I love you".
This is when we make the Cross of Jesus our own, when we cry from the depths of our being, I LOVE YOU.
He has already shown us how deep His love is for us, by His sacrifice on the Cross. This is what makes Christianity unique. In the Cross we see the depth of God's love agonising, weeping, yearning for you and me to choose the right way, to choose Him and follow Him.
The Cross becomes personal when we can say with St Peter, "Yes, Lord, you know that I love you. (John 21:15)
Yes, it is too early for Easter, but never too early to say YES to Jesus.
I take, O Cross, thy shadow,
for my abiding place.
I ask no other sunshine than
the sunshine of His face;
content to let the world go by,
to know no gain nor loss -
my sinful self my only shame,
my glory all - the Cross. (Hymns and Psalms 165 v3)
Rev'd. F. Bernard Dodd, January 2016
Written by the Minister & Members