Fleming Rutledge, in her extraordinary book, The Crucifixion, makes a persuasive claim about a Christian’s perspective toward life. She makes her assertion relative to the two most well-known seasons of the liturgical calendar: Advent and Lent. As we recently experienced, Advent locates a Christian’s life during “in between” times, namely between the birth of Jesus Christ and his second coming. That’s where Advent invites us to imagine the story of God’s salvation, and that’s where we live throughout the year. No matter what the date is on the calendar, whether its January or July, we still live in the Advent mode. Rutledge observes, however, that we are drawn to the cross of Christ, not thanks to its beauty, but because the mystery of God’s love is on full display.
The season of Lent creates space for us to ponder deeply this mystery. We live in anticipation of Christ’s second coming, yet we cannot shake loose the horror and ugliness of the Cross. The beginning words in Jürgen Moltmann’s The Crucified God startle us: “The cross is not and cannot be loved.” What was originally the Roman Empire’s means for public humiliation and execution has now become the world’s most universally recognized religious symbol.
Think about how frequently you see the cross: in home décor, advertisements, and of course jewelry. Do these public appearances in any way soften or even romanticize the crucifixion of Jesus Christ?
Jesus’ crucifixion – his brutal suffering and death upon the cross – is the central defining act in God’s story of salvation. And what a scandalous act it is! “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing,” says the Apostle Paul, “but to us who are being saved it is the power of God (1 Corinthians 1:18).” At the core of Christian theology is the unwavering conviction that Jesus’ death on the cross somehow provides people access to God’s forgiveness, reconciliation with God, the opportunity for new life, and the gift of eternal life in heaven. But HOW is this power at work?
During Lent, let us reflect more deeply upon “the power of God” in the cross. This may be a difficult task for at least three reasons. First, as mentioned earlier, we may be too familiar with the cross that its harsh reality is lost. Second, we are too easily satisfied with a surface level understanding, and we move on to the next captivating idea. Third, and most importantly, the cross names what we are afraid to face: how our sin demands confession, and our lives need saving.
May the saving power of God work within you.
Grace and peace,