The Good News of the Cross
This weekend we have Fleming Rutledge with us. If you’re reading this electronically it will be happening tomorrow - come! If you’re reading the printed form of this you will already know what an excellent and captivating speaker she was. Her topic is the crucifixion. Not a very cheerful one you might think.
If fact, in a discussion I recently had, people were wondering whether the cross as a subject was essentially off-putting to people. So much happier to skip forward to Easter Sunday. The cross seemed all guilt and shame and negativity.
The truth, of course, is that the cross is the place where God in Christ identifies and stands with the messiest parts of our humanity. It is a bold declaration that even in the most painful and dark parts of our existence - where the monsters lie - God stands with us and alongside us. And because God stands with us in it, and because we know that Sunday is coming - the cross becomes gospel - good news that declares that God’s light can penetrate even the darkest places. Guilt and shame and negativity are exposed and overcome from the inside by the self-giving presence of Christ in the darkness.
We don’t always want to face the darker side of our existence. The cross gives us the ability to deal with the darkness of the human condition and to address it because we know that even there we are loved.
On the other hand - if you want transformation, you may need to start with death. And of course, that’s not something that we really want to confront. It is much more pleasant for us to have an anodyne faith which simply papers over the cracks and hides the darkness away where it belongs. Putting our sins to death with Christ on the cross, so that we might be free of them is not necessarily so comfortable.
So let me encourage you. The gospel is ‘good news’ and the day of the crucifixion ‘good Friday’ not because we revel in sin and death, but because we know they have been overcome. The cross is the point of liberation rather than destruction. We can look at the darkest day in history and the darkest moments in our lives and do so with hope.
But hope means embracing the message of the cross, not avoiding it.