Worship The Cross - Good Friday
April 19, 2019 Pastor: Rev. Dean Kavouras
Verse: John 12:24–12:33
Christ Lutheran Church
April 19, 2019
by: Rev. Dean Kavouras
Worship The Cross
Amen, Amen I say to you. Unless the “Kernel Of Wheat” fall into the earth and die he alone remains. But if he dies he produces much fruit … And I, when I am raised up from the earth, I will draw all men to myself." He said this in order to indicate by what death he was to die. John 12:24 ff.
Tonight we worship the heart of the holy Christian faith – the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Gal. 6:14)
Does that sound strange to say that we worship the cross? Only to the “little Fundamentalist” that adheres to our flesh. But know this, that the Fathers of the church had no such sensitivities. And so tonight let us hear some small portion of their inspired sermons.
We begin with a small excerpt from the late 4th century church Father St. Jerome who expresses the vast nature of the Good Friday mystery when he writes:
"And so the cross of Christ was not only for our benefit but also for the benefit of the angels … and all the holy powers … and it opened a sacrament that they were unaware of before." Ponder Jerome’s grand vision of the Cross as you lie on your beds tonight.
Next we hear from another Great: St. John Chrysostom. From his homily “On the Cross and the Thief” (p. 167 Amalarius of Metz Vol. 1) The thing we should remember about John Chrysostom is that “Chrysostom” means “golden-mouth.” It was an appellation bestowed upon him because whenever he opened his mouth to preach it was as though gold dripped from it. Chrysostom, speaks thus about the cross:
"The cross is the hope of Christians, the cross is the resurrection of the dead, the cross is the leader of the blind, the cross is a path for the hopeless, the cross is a staff for the crippled, the cross is the consolation of the poor, the cross is the restraint of the wealthy, the cross is the destruction of the proud, the cross is punishment for those who lead evil lives, the cross is a triumph over demons, the cross is the ruin of the devil.
The cross is the tutor of youth, the cross is the support for the needy, the cross is the hope of the desperate, the cross is the helmsman of sailors, the cross is a harbor for those in peril, the cross is a wall for the besieged, the cross is the father of orphans, the cross is the defender of widows, the cross is the counselor of the just, the cross is rest for the troubled,
The cross is the guardian of children, the cross is a leader of men, the cross is the end of old age, the cross is a light for those sitting in darkness, the cross is the magnificence of kings, the cross is an everlasting shield.
The cross is the intelligence of the foolish, the cross is the freedom of slaves, the cross is the wisdom of emperors, the cross is the law of the impious, the cross is the proclamation of prophets, the cross is the message of the apostles, the cross is the exultation of martyrs, the cross is the abstinence of monks, the cross is the chastity of virgins, the cross is the joy of priests, the cross is the foundation of the church.
The cross is the surety of the world, the cross is the destruction of temples, the cross is the rejection of idols, the cross is the stumbling block of the Jews, the cross is the damnation of the impious.
The cross is the strength of the weak, the cross is medicine for the sick, the cross is the cleansing of lepers, the cross is rest for the paralyzed, the cross is bread for the hungry, the cross is a spring for the thirsty, the cross is covering for the naked.”
And in his 5th century “Easter Song” Bishop Sedulius says, “nor is anyone unaware that the figure of the cross should be worshipped.” For the Son of God emptied himself in order to be visible to men. On the day when we kiss the cross, he was humbled for our sakes before the Father unto death, even to the death of the cross. If we are to imitate his death, we should also imitate his humility. And so we lie prostrate before the cross to express our unmoving humility of mind through the posture of our body.”
And this quote brings us to our final thought for the evening: How do we worship the cross?
The Fathers sometimes seemed to speak as if they were in possession of the actual cross itself. It is possible. But even if they were it is a relic we can do without because, in the thinking of the Fathers, any and every cross that Christian hands fashion, and that Christian eyes behold, should be venerated.
Ponder the crucifix before us! that wordlessly declares the full content of our faith; that sets the tone of our worship; that directs the course of our lives; that diverts us from the Broad and Easy Way that leads to destruction; and “takes every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.” (2 Cor. 10:5)
Consider the cross on the front of each hymnal in the pew.
Think of the cross you wear around your neck. Don’t wear it if it is only pretty decoration: that would be blasphemy.
But wear it joyfully if you wear it as a reminder that the cross is everything St. John Chrysostom says that it is in his sermon.
Wear it boldly if by it you wish to preach a wordless sermon to everyone you see.
Wear it gratefully if it reminds you how beautiful you truly are in God’s sight – even if not in man’s – because of the cross’s sanctifying power: for it removes every spot and blemish of the sin that so easily besets us.
Moreover, remember that as Christian faith cannot exist without ritual and ceremony, nor can it be conducted without religious symbols – most especially the cross. And so away with the odorless, colorless, tasteless religion of Fundamentalism that reminds one of non-alcoholic beer, or sugar-free candy.
What is the point, after all???
You, on the other hand, were born with a silver spoon in your mouth. “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ that, though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.” (2 Cor 8:9)
And so let us continue to venerate the cross as Christians have done through the ages. Let us reverence every cross we see. Let us cover ourselves with the “sign of the cross,” the “sign of salvation” often. For by that liturgical gesture we remember and praise God for the cross of our salvation.
Lastly, let us commune with the crucified, resurrected and exalted Lord Jesus Christ in holy worship as often as it is celebrated! And let these words of Jesus serve as the theme of our lives: “Whoever loves his life loses it and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. If anyone serves me he must follow me; and where I am there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.” (John 12:25-26)