Sermon: Feast of the Holy Cross

The podcast can be found here.

In Ruthwell Scotland there is a preaching cross. It is eighteen feet tall and made of stone. A preaching cross marks the place where itinerant traveling priest or monks would come to proclaim the word of God. Carved into this particular cross are scenes from the Bible, decorative vine work, and eighteen verses of an old English poem.

For centuries it was thought that the eighteen verses comprised the entire poem, but in 1822 a 10th century book was found that contained the complete text. The poem is titled, “The Dream of the Rood.”

In the poem an unknown poet dreams that he encounters a beautiful tree. It is the “rood” or cross on which Jesus Christ was crucified. The cross is gloriously decorated with gold and gems, but the poet can still see ancient wounds that had been inflicted upon it. The rood tells the poet how it had been forced to be the instrument of Christ’s death, describing how it too experienced the nails and spear thrust.

The rood goes on to explain that the cross was once an instrument of torture and death, but is now the dazzling sign of mankind’s redemption. Finally the rood charges the poet to tell his vision to everyone, so that all might be redeemed of sin.

The entire poem is quite lengthy, but I would like to share with you the eighteen verses found on the cross. The cross speaks:

Then the young hero – God Almighty – stripped himself.
Firm and unflinching he mounted the high cross.
brave in the sight of many, for he intended to redeem humanity.
I trembled when the young hero clasped me,
but dared not bow down to the earth
No – I would not fall to the ground; I knew full well I must stand firm.
As I, the cross, was raised up – I bore aloft the mighty king – the Lord of Heaven – I dared not stoop.
They pierced me with dark nails – the wounds can still be seen in me – gaping gashes of malice.
I dared do nothing to seal them up, for they mocked us both together.
I was drenched with the blood shed from the man’s side after he had sent out his spirit.
I endured many hard trials on the hill.
I saw the God of hosts violently stretched out.
Darkness with its clouds had covered the Lord’s corpse, the fair radiance,
a shadow moved in, dark beneath the heavens.
All creation wept – all lamented the King’s death.
Christ was on the cross!

First Corinthians 1:18, “The cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”

Question: Are we fools? We put our faith in a single man who died upon a cross. We say that this one act of violence will save us… give us eternal life.

Is that foolishness? If Jesus were only a man, then yes, we are complete fools. But the cross itself testifies that it did not lift up only a man, “I bore aloft the mighty king. The Lord of Heaven. Christ. Almighty God.” Jesus was not only a man, he was God incarnate, and it was only through him and this single act of atonement that we could be saved and given eternal life.

We are not fools. We are the wise. The anointed. And the redeemed, because by the Cross, we become the children of the Living God.

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