Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:
‘The Cross: A Symbol of Our Faith and Reminder of God’s Love’
© October 26, 2014 by Steve Mickelson
Announcements and Call to Worship:
Responsive Reading #632 (God’s Redeeming Lover – from John 3 and 1 John 4); Prayer
Opening Hymn # 248: And Can It Be That I Should Gain; Choruses
Prayer and Tithing Hymn #572: Praise God from Whom All Blessings
Scripture Verses: Isaiah 53:5-6, John 20:19-31, Colossians 2:13-14
Let us pray…
Welcome to our Sunday Praise and Worship service today at Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship, where our lesson is entitled: ‘The Cross: A Symbol of Our Faith and Reminder of God’s Love’. And before we delve into the lesson, I would like to share our own miracle of the cross here at BLCF.
It was at a BLCF picnic in the back of the church at St. Helens several years ago, that the congregation decided to invite the Bloor Lansdowne Community to our barbeque/picnic, featuring hot dogs and corn on the cob.
Since we had a small grill, we decided to cook the hot dogs outside and boil the corn inside the church kitchen. I was running the barbeque in the front driveway so as to catch the attention of passersby with a sign posted as an invitation to join the picnic posted above my station.
As I cooked a group of four or five young people passed by, where one having read our sign commented: “What kind of place is this?” To which another replied: “I think it is a church.”
When I heard the comments, I realized that the church signage consisted of a front marquee sign and another on the east wall, outside of the prayer room, both mounted high above eye level, making the signs all but invisible to pedestrians walking on the sidewalk in front of the building. The church had a small cross, composed of white bricks embedded in the red brick wall located high above the front facade of the church. No wonder many people were unaware that we were a church. The lights inside the marquee sign had stopped working several years before.
Later, intrigued about the sign, I went to the roof and found an old five foot cross made of plywood with faded white paint sitting upon the roof. It looked as if the weather and wind had caused the cross to fall some years before, with the lag bolts pulling free from the peak of the wall.
Here is where our little miracle occurred.
As I pondered whether the cross might be repaired, restored and mounted back on the roof, we received an interesting message from the daughter of one of the members of our congregation, who had passed away two years before. It seemed that a nearby church had closed and the property sold. The new owners intended to convert the building to lofts. Part of the conversion included the removal of the large twelve foot silver cross mounted on the front of the building.
It seems that the young lady noticed the cross place in a scrap bin. She convinced the contractor to give her the cross, indicating that she knew of a church that needed a sign. When she contacted me, she asked: “Could use a new cross?”
My reply was an emphatic ”Yes, though I was not sure how to arrange delivery of a twelve foot cross, let alone how we would mount it. I did not tell her that the church at the time had funds for neither.
I was informed that in memory of her mother, she wanted to hire a contractor to deliver and mount the cross, all at her expense.
When I received the dimensions, I measure the wall and determined that it would fit perfectly above the front doors, between the double arches that framed the front doorway.
I marveled how the Lord had provided a solution to the need to replace the old cross, before I had even raised the need to him. And the solution that the Lord provided was far better than what I had imagined. The Lord was going to ensure that people in the community knew without a doubt that BLCF is a place of worship. The Lord recognized the need for a new cross. He provided both the cross, as well as the means to install it, before we had a chance to pray for it.
I wonder how many times God provides for His children, before the need is raised. And how many times does the Lord provide for a need before it is even recognized. This was not the first time God has provided in a miraculous way for need at BLCF.
It may surprise you to find out that the cross has not always been a symbol of the Christian Church. Let us check our Wikibits for the history of the cross:
The Christian Cross (From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)
Not to be confused with the typographical dagger (†).
A Latin cross
The Christian Cross, seen as a representation of the instrument of the crucifixion of Jesus, is the best-known symbol of Christianity. It is related to the crucifix (a cross that includes a usually three-dimensional representation of Jesus’ body) and to the more general family of cross symbols.
In contemporary Christianity, the cross is a symbol of the atonement and reminds Christians of God’s love in sacrificing his own son for humanity. It represents Jesus’ victory over sin and death, since it is believed that through his death and resurrection he conquered death itself.
See Colossians 2:15, “Having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross”.
The cross is often shown in different shapes and sizes, in many different styles. It may be used in personal jewelry, or used on top of church buildings. It is shown both empty and in crucifix form, that is, with a figure of Christ, often referred to as the corpus (Latin for “body”), affixed to it. Roman Catholic, Anglican and Lutheran depictions of the cross are often crucifixes, in order to emphasize that it is Jesus that is important, rather than the cross in isolation. Large crucifixes are a prominent feature of some Lutheran churches, as illustrated in the article Rood. However, some other Protestant traditions depict the cross without the corpus, interpreting this form as an indication of belief in the resurrection rather than as representing the interval between the death and the resurrection of Jesus.
Crosses are a prominent feature of Christian cemeteries, either carved on gravestones or as sculpted stelas. Because of this, planting small crosses is sometimes used in countries of Christian culture to mark the site of fatal accidents, or to protest alleged deaths.
Also called an archiepiscopal cross or a crux gemina. A double cross, with the two crossbars near the top. The upper one is shorter, representing the plaque nailed to Jesus’ cross. Similar to the Cross of Lorraine, though in the original version of the latter, the bottom arm is lower. The Eastern Orthodox cross adds a slanted bar near the foot.
Cross (disambiguation) From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
The Cross consists of two lines or bars, intersecting each other at a 90° angle and dividing one or both of the lines in half.
Cross or to cross may also refer to:
- Christian cross, the basic symbol of Christianity
- As a simple ritual or prayer, it is the Sign of the Cross
- Cross necklace, a necklace worn by adherents of the Christian religion
- Cross (crown), the decoration located at the highest level of a crown
- A cross with a human body affixed is referred to as a crucifix
- High cross, early Medieval free-standing Christian cross made of stone and often richly decorated
Sign of the cross: Sequence
Theodoret (393–457) gave the following instruction:
This is how to bless someone with your hand and make the sign of the cross over them. Hold three fingers, as equals, together, to represent the Trinity: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost. These are not three gods, but one God in Trinity. The names are separate, but the divinity one. The Father was never incarnate; the Son incarnate, but not created; the Holy Ghost neither incarnate nor created, but issued from the Godhead: three in a single divinity. Divinity is one force and has one honor. They receive on obeisance from all creation, both angels and people. Thus the decree for these three fingers.
The sign of the cross is made by touching the hand sequentially to the forehead, lower chest or navel area, and both shoulders, accompanied by the Trinitarian formula: at the forehead In the name of the Father (or In nomine Patris in Latin); at the stomach or heart and of the Son (et Filii); across the shoulders and of the Holy Spirit/Ghost (et Spiritus Sancti); and finally: Amen.
There are several interpretations, according to Church Fathers: the forehead symbolizes Heaven; the stomach, the earth; the shoulders, the place and sign of power.
Position of the fingers used by Old Believers while making the sign of the cross.
There are some variations: for example a person may first place the right hand in holy water. After moving the hand from one shoulder to the other, it may be returned to the stomach. It may also be accompanied by the recitation of a prayer e.g. the Jesus Prayer, or simply “Lord have mercy“. In some countries, like Spain, Italy and other Latin countries, it is customary to kiss one’s thumb at the conclusion of the gesture, while in the Philippines, this extra step evolved into the thumb quickly touching the chin or lower lip.
“Dogmatic Sarcophagus”, AD 350, earliest known depiction of the Trinity Vatican Museums, Rome, Italy.
You should hold the other two fingers slightly bent, not completely straight. This is because these represent the dual nature of Christ, divine and human. God in His divinity, and human in His incarnation, yet perfect in both. The upper finger represents divinity, and the lower humanity; this way salvation goes from the higher finger to the lower. So is the bending of the fingers interpreted, for the worship of Heaven comes down for our salvation. This is how you must cross yourselves and give a blessing, as the holy fathers have commanded.
So we see that the cross, which in the Christian Church may refer to either a symbol or a motion with the hand or fingers, did not come into practice in the Christian Church until the third or fourth century A.D.
Some churches avoid having a cross in their place of worship, fearing that the cross may be treated not as an icon or symbol but worshipped as an idol. In the same manner, many evangelical churches avoid having statues for the same fear that they will be prayed to and worshipped as idols.
While the cross or crucifix does remind us that Christ suffered and died for the sins of humanity, without the resurrection Christ’s death would have only made him a martyr. It is only after Jesus was resurrected from the grave and following the Holy Spirit’s arrival on the Day of Pentecost, did the Christian Church come into being, as a proof of Christ’s Lordship with the fulfillment of the prophecy found in the Scriptures, as we read in Isaiah 53:5-6 (ESV):
5 But he was pierced for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his wounds we are healed.
6 All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have turned—every one—to his own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.
Is it wrong to have a symbol such as the cross as a reminder of the sacrifice of the cross? I believe that Jesus felt it was useful to have visual cues to help remind us of the price that he paid for our salvation. We find that the holes left by being nailed to the cross, and by the Centurion’s spear to his side, helped Jesus demonstrate his supernatural victory over death to the disciples, including Thomas who was absent at his first appearance but arrived eight days later, John 20:19-31 (ESV):
Jesus Appears to the Disciples
19 On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 20 When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. 21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” 22 And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.”
Jesus and Thomas
24 Now Thomas, one of the Twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.”
26 Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” 28 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
The Purpose of This Book
30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.
The signs of the wounds Jesus showed his disciples helped them to understand both the suffering he endured and the supernatural victory Christ achieved over death by his resurrection. Interestingly, though Jesus had the wounds from the cross, he now was able to pass through the locked door of the upper room. Having showed the disciples his wounds, Jesus breathed onto them the breath of the Holy Spirit, to help them go forth in his place, no longer disciples, but apostles of the Gospel of Christ. Jesus death on the cross had removed the debts from sin, Colossians 2:13-14 (ESV):
13 And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, 14 by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.
The cross is a symbol, not just of the suffering and death that Jesus experienced, but reminds us that while we are called to follow the Lord and may suffer for our faith, we have the assurance that the judgment for our sins has been born by the Lord, 1 Peter 2:20-24 (ESV):
20 For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. 21 For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. 22 He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. 23 When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. 24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.
Just as the cross acts as a reminder to Christians of the sacrifice Jesus made on our behalf, our faith in the Lord is made perfect, not just because he endured the cross, but the holes in his hands and side act as a reminder to God the Father in heaven, as Jesus sits at the right hand side of the throne of God. Our faith is made perfect through Jesus, Hebrews 12:1-2 (ESV):
Jesus, Founder and Perfecter of Our Faith
12 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
Jesus revealed his hands and side to the disciples, it was not so that they would dwell upon his wounds upon the cross. The intent was to give encouragement and hope in the victory of his resurrection. And we read that is exactly what took place, John 20:19-20(ESV):
19 On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 20 When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord.
The disciples were glad when they saw the marks of the crucifixion. Let us , therefore view the cross not as an instrument of torture and death of Christ, but as a symbol for our own hope in his resurrection and be encouraged in the truth of his promise to all believers of their own resurrection on the day Christ returns.
Let us pray…
Closing Hymn Closing Hymnn # 236: On a Hill far Away
Benediction – (Romans 15:13): May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.