“From Mount Hor they set out by the way to the Red Sea,to go around the land of Edom; but the people became impatient on the way. The people spoke against God and against Moses, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we detest this miserable food.” Then the Lord sent poisonous serpents among the people, and they bit the people, so that many Israelites died. The people came to Moses and said, “We have sinned by speaking against the Lord and against you; pray to the Lord to take away the serpents from us.” So Moses prayed for the people. And the Lord said to Moses, “Make a poisonous serpent, and set it on a pole; and everyone who is bitten shall look at it and live.” So Moses made a serpent of bronze, and put it upon a pole; and whenever a serpent bit someone, that person would look at the serpent of bronze and live.” (Numbers 21:4-9)
Today, September 14th, is Holy Cross Day, and it has its own set of verses. Holy Cross Day celebrates the cross and its power to save. That is why this passage from Numbers is used, as the first instance of the power of something inanimate being lifted up and used to save people in need of saving. It is not quite a cross, but very close to it.
“No one has ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. “Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” (John 3:13-17)
This lifting up is confirmed and explained in the John chapter passage. It is this symbol of salvation, however, that is the focus today and not the act of salvation itself. And it led me to think about how the cross is used in our modern culture; more specifically, how I use the cross in my life. Not, beloved reader, my need for salvation and what it has done in my life. But the cross itself.
I several pieces of jewelry that feature the cross. The first one from left to right is not a cross actually but a Star of David – a Jewish symbol that commemorates my genetic and religious heritage. If traced back far enough, my ancestors on my father’s mother’s side are from a Jewish line – perhaps not the line of David but in our world close enough. The next one over is a small cross with insets of colored beads. The next one is a green stone cross. And the last one is a sterling silver cross I bought for myself on my 50th birthday. The bracelet across the bottom is one I wear most every day. Its history and story can be find on my other blog, Pondering from the Pacific in the post Missing Sparkles of Life
“For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.” Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, God decided, through the foolishness of our proclamation, to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom, but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.” (I Corinthians 1:18-24)
I Corinthians talks about the “message about the cross.” Not everyone thinks much about the message that the cross brings. I sometimes wonder what people think when they see me wearing my crosses. It has become such a frequent symbol in jewelry and other sections of society that I often wonder if the meaning and awareness of it has dulled. And it is not given much thought. It used to be that only people who were of religious background or persuasion would were one or use something with the cross symbol. The rosary often features a cross; and I actually have a rosary with a cross talisman at the end. I do not have a picture of it, and would not post a picture of it even if I did. Not because I am ashamed, but some religious artifacts need to remain that. And even if I am not Catholic, I will not contribute anything that might lessen its import. But as I said, the cross is quite prevalent. And as a symbol it represents a powerful message. For it has become the symbol of our Lord Christ’s victory.
“O sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvelous things.
His right hand and his holy arm have gotten him victory.
The Lord has made known his victory; he has revealed his vindication in the sight of the nations.
He has remembered his steadfast love and faithfulness to the house of Israel.
All the ends of the earth have seen the victory of our God.
Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth; break forth into joyous song and sing praises.
Sing praises to the Lord with the lyre, with the lyre and the sound of melody.” Psalm 98:1-5
Before Christ’s death, the cross was a symbol of death and shame. Those put to death on the cross were deemed to have deserved that cruel, prolonged, painful death. But the crucifixion changed all that. And “crucifix” is another term for the cross. Think of that! Wearing a symbol of shame, suffering and death around your neck, in your ears, on you wrist or even dangling from you key chain!
Is someone who “decorates” their life with such symbols “foolish”? Or is it those who ignore the cross and the message that the cross brings that are foolish?
And am I “foolish” to have some many items of jewelry that feature the crucifix? Or have I distilled or weakened the meaning of the cross by using it as jewelry. Those are questions I would lay before you, beloved reader.
Whatever the your answer to those questions, may you at least for this day ponder on the meaning of the cross in your life. Selah!