Sunday, 8 April 2012
The resurrection cross
In our service this evening, we've been hearing about the resurrection of Jesus in music and in words
I'd like to complete the trinity and add a reflection using two images of the cross.
They are both called resurrection crosses.
The first image is called the Japanese cross
This image is very simple but it speaks of horror. It is a wooden cross to remind us of the reality of the crucifixion, when Jesus was nailed to the tree.
And the shape of a person outlined on the cross?
It is like those crime films in which the shape of where the body fell is outlined on the floor. It was said that, after the horror of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, because of the immensity of the light and heat of the bomb, the only thing that was left of some people was their image burnt into the ground.
And this cross reminds us that Jesus knew suffering. He was crucified. He was there.
But the reason that I value this cross is because it also speaks of something much better. The shape of the person on the cross is a cut out shape. It is almost as if Jesus has cut through, has broken through the cross. Death could not hold him. And a door has been thrown open wide between this world and the world of ultimate reality.
It is a bit like 'Hole in the Wall'! Do you know the TV programme? Contestants have to make themselves into the shape of the hole in the wall, or else they will not get through. Well, in a way that is also true here. We can now know God, we can have a relationship with him, be intimate with him. The barrier between us and God has been smashed down. But, and there is a but, if we wish to go through this door, then we too need to be willing to become cross shaped.
The problem is that so many of us try to smash our way through that door, like a drunk man trying to break down a wall using his head; or we try to crucify ourselves for our own sins, to someone make recompense. This cross tells us that we can't and we don't need to. Because of the cross and the resurrection, Jesus has smashed through death, and all we need to do is to put our hand in his hand and allow him to lead us through the hole in the cross. It does mean that we will need to mould ourselves into his shape, but it is the way to life.
The second is simply called the resurrection cross. I came across it on the Barnabas in Churches website.
I find it beautiful.
1. This is an image of the risen Jesus, not the crucified Jesus
The image is in gold
Christ is wearing his robe
This is the Son of God who reigns. Here is the one before whom we bow.
I belong to a tradition which treasures intimacy with Jesus. Jesus is my brother and my friend. When I sit down to pray to my Father in heaven, he is the one who is seated next to me.
But he is also the eternal Son of God, the one who was in the beginning with God, the one who sustains all things by his powerful word, the one who will return as judge; the one before whom every knee shall bow.
2. Christ is pinned to the cross, but the cross does not hold him or restrain him. He is both tied inseparably to the cross, but also gloriously free.
And we cannot separate Jesus from the cross. The one who rose from the dead is the one who died on the cross. The cross is part of who he is at his very core. The resurrected body of Jesus carries the scars of the crucifixion - because they are scars of obedience, of ultimate trust in God and of love for God and for the people of God.
When we worship him, we will worship the lamb who was slain.
3. Jesus transforms the shape of the cross. He takes that which was a symbol of utter human cruelty and shamefulness and transforms it. And he can transform our shame, our sinfulness, our suffering into something that is quite glorious. (Apocryphal story of Paginini, who allows child to continue to plonk on the piano, but adds in the most glorious refrain). And one day he will take our frail human bodies, which are subject to sin and to death, and he will transform them so that they will be like his glorious body.
4. I draw attention to the shape of Jesus' hands. You can look at these in many ways. With one hand he blesses us, and with the other he blesses God. Or with one hand he receives the blessing of God and with the other he passes it on to us.
Or perhaps you can see his hands forming a scooping movement. With one hand he scoops us up and with the other he brings us to God. And Jesus opens up for us a completely new dimension. The cross is rigid and square. The arms of Jesus begin a circle which point us not simply outwards or upwards but upwards and outwards at the same time.