(Author’s note: This article was first written and first appeared in the March 2021 newsletter of First United Methodist Church of Winnfield, LA “The Cross and Tower”)
I have been thinking about the cross quite a bit lately. Yes, it is because my message series during Lent is titled “At the Cross” and each week I am thinking about something that Jesus did or encountered on his way to the cross. Yes, it is because I asked my congregations (and I have joined them) to literally carry a cross during Lent. Yes, it is because it is the season of Lent and I am preparing to walk spiritually with Jesus to the cross that I might fully experience the hope and joy of the resurrection on Easter.
With the cross so much on my mind, I was struck by this image of the cross at FUMC Winnfield one evening as I was leaving church. What struck me was not so much the cross, but the shadow. The shadow was even larger than the cross. I immediately thought of a verse of the old hymn “Beneath the Cross of Jesus” that goes this way: “3. I take, O cross, thy shadow for my abiding place; I ask no other sunshine than the sunshine of his face; content to let the world go by, to know no gain nor loss, my sinful self my only shame, my glory all the cross.” What if we dwelt in the shadow of the cross? What if we lived each day considering and remembering what Jesus did for us through his life, death, and resurrection? How would it change us? How would it change the world?
I am not the only one thinking about the cross. When I was in Israel, I had the honor and privilege of walking the Via Dolorosa (the way of suffering) several times, pausing at the stations of the cross. Still today, you can walk the Via Dolorosa and even carry your own cross if you would like. You can even walk the Via Dolorosa virtually and visit the Stations of the Cross in Jerusalem on YouTube here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qc_KzfpGTwU&list=PL4m2vXv9xNr-CsbtxaH-q-RQsYw7296gv&index=3&t=22s or other places online. Mel Gibson’s R rated film “The Passion of the Christ” truthfully and brutally shows what Jesus did for us. You can even read a 1986 article from the Journal of American Medicine “On the Physical Death of Jesus Christ” here: https://people.bethel.edu/~pferris/ot103/Jesus_Crucifixion.pdf, though be warned, it is not for the faint of heart.
Take some time this Lent. Think about the cross. Think about what Jesus did and how much it cost him. Then allow its shadow to fall upon you. Feel its weight, suffering and shame. Only by considering the sacrifice at the cross can we experience the true of joy of Easter. Join me in the shadow of the cross. There is enough room for all.
Dwelling in the Shadow of the Cross,