If you weren’t here last Wednesday, you missed the warning, but last week I had just come back from my trip to Washington D.C. and so I told them that it was likely to pop up in a few more sermons. Guess what? Yeah…
As I travelled through the various monuments, I always wanted to find something to remember the place by, a souvenir of sorts, but as it turns out, most of them were a bit kitschy or too expensive for what they were. When I visited Arlington National Cemetery, I was determined to find something, but even there, it was less than desirable. However, my friend knew my search and so, when we got back home, she handed me this bag. It is labeled “Grass from Arlington National Cemetery, April 2017”. You may find this exceptionally strange, but I will never throw this away. It is a part, although small, of something very significant.
Fortunately, I’m not alone in this practice of keeping something tangible from past events, although some are more significant than others. And it was on this day, May 3rd, in the year 326 a.d. that St. Helena, the mother of Constantine, the first Christian Roman Emperor, is reported to have discovered the true cross of Jerusalem.
She had gone on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem to identify the most significant sites in the life of Jesus and after interviewing many individuals, she discovered that the cross of Jesus, along with the crosses of the two criminals crucified on either side of him, had been buried by the Jews under a large mound of dirt to prevent them from being found. Some
report that when she unearthed the crosses that Jesus’ still held the sign that Pilate had fixed to it “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews”, but others report that at first they were unable to tell which was which, therefore, they brought to the site of the three crosses a woman who was dying and laid her on each one, then St. Macarius, the Bishop of Jerusalem, recited the following prayer:
“O Lord, who by the Passion of Thine only Son on the cross, didst deign to restore salvation to mankind, and who even now hast inspired thy handmaid Helena to seek for the blessed wood to which the author of our salvation was nailed, show clearly which it was, among the three crosses, that was raised for Thy glory. Distinguish it from those which only served for a common execution. Let this woman who is now expiring return from death’s door as soon as she is touched by the wood of salvation.”
Upon touching the wood of the true cross of Jesus, she was restored to health. So often we come to believe that our faith resides only in the heart of the believer, that there is nothing tangible, nothing that we can hold onto that connects us to our Savior, but we are wrong. Let me ask you to do something – its not weird, but reach out and take the hand of the person sitting next to you. Now I will tell you, what you are holding is not a piece of the Holy Cross of Jesus. What you are holding is something far more precious, because you are touching a creation of God and holding the hand of one of his children.
Our faith is not only of the heart and mind, but it is also tangible. You can see it and touch it, whether it be the true cross of Jesus or the image of God in your neighbor.