The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are being destroyed. But it is the power of God for those of us who are being saved.
Crosses have dissimilar meanings for different groups of people, in the first century as well as in the twenty-first century.
My call to ministry was inspired by a trip to Belfast, Northern Ireland, in 1982, during “The Troubles.” As a small group of United Methodist Americans we could not identify who was Catholic and who was Protestant, and yet the Northern Irish had a variety of means of identifying the opposition; your name, or what street you lived on, or what school you attended, to name a few. You have probably observed that Catholic churches have a crucifix, whereas Protestant churches display an empty cross. Because many Americans wear cross necklaces, our guide, the Rev. Sydney Callahan, warned us against it, because it would immediately identify us at Protestant. It would be like waving a gun in the faces of Catholics with whom we were trying to build relationships.
Paul calls the message of the cross “foolishness” for some because it was understood by people in the first century to be the most humiliating and shameful way for anyone to be put to death. Those who did not know who Jesus was or did not believe his message only knew that this man who was called “King” suffered a death steeped in total degradation.
For those of us who worship the Trinitarian God, Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer, the cross is a symbol of God’s love for humanity. The cross is a message of hope for God’s kin-dom to come on earth and of promise for life eternal with our God. It is a message of reconciliation between a sinful people and our forgiving, gracious God.
By Kathleen Stolz
For Pondering & Prayer
How would you answer someone today who asks, “What is the message of the cross?” A possible answer is that the cross is a call to action. It is a call to work for justice, to love God and one another, and to join Christ in the work of transformation and reconciliation within God’s world.
Prayer is a vital part of the action which will join us together as a family of faith to transform the world, through Jesus Christ, our Lord. As you travel through your day, be aware of opportunities to join God in acts of justice, kindness and humility, as encouraged by Micah 6:8.