The glory of the Cross – does your life live up to your jewellery? #digidisciple

It’s all about the cross.

I was intrigued to wake up on Easter Saturday to see Cardinal O’Brien’s call to wear the cross as the second item on the newsfeed. Here it is. The Cardinal is suggesting that Christians should wear the sign of the cross as a sign of what Jesus did for them on that first Good Friday but also as a sign of openness to speak about the Gospel message of love and peace. The wearing of the cross is not just about be decking ourselves with jewellery, he argues, but a definite missional act. And the Pope has said all this as well, which must make it even more significant.  Indeed, Cameron got involved in the argument when he addressed Christians at his Easter gathering. (Read his speech and Obama’s address over on my blog site thanks to @godandpolitics. Oh, look, Shami Chakrabati from Liberty is on the News right now…a topical issue).

I opened up the blogosphere and there was Richard Littledale reminding us that Jesus calls us to bear the cross not wear the cross. Richard makes a very valid point about the whole symbolism of the cross. On Good Friday, we focus on the cross as a place of torture, death and inhuman suffering. We think of the cross as the focus of Jesus’ death. Even if we hold that death to be the salvation of the world, the horror of the experience should not be minimised when we turnthis Roman electric chair into a golden trinket to wear on our lapel or around our neck.

For this reason, I love Rainer’s Wine Crucifix. It reminds us of the horror of the cross. Of the blood, of the torture, the disfigured body of Christ annihilated by the darkness. And yet, the darkness cannot annihilate that body or wipe away the blood.  By his stripes, his suffering, we are healed (Isaiah 53:5). By his blood shed, our wrongs and our imperfection is dealt with and we are offered the option of a new start on Easter Day. By the blood turned into wine at the Eucharist, that salvation is remembered, made real, internalised, celebrated. Blood of death turned into the wine of new life.  The cup of suffering turned into the cup of the new covenant.

And so, to turn back to the argument, we must never trivialise the cross and turn it into a piece of jewellery or a status symbol. But we do need to lift the cross up high – as the Easter hymn tells us. We need to lift high the cross not because we celebrate death or suffering, not to throw horror in people’s faces but instead to celebrate the glory of the cross, the turned into a sign of mission and new life and engagement.

As such, the cross becomes asymbol of our decision to follow Jesus and that we are seeking to follow his ways. Not that it makes us triumphalistic or imperialist. Not that wearing the cross makes us a person of power and objectionable views. Not that warincrossroads means that we force our faith upon others. The cross represents the whole of Jesus’ life.  And when we wear the cross, we represent all of Christ to the world.

I love the thought of the all-but encloistered Cuthbert alone on Inner Farne wearing his glorious pectoral cross, the sign of his role as bishop, not because of his love for power but because of his love for Jesus.

It was not the cross that made Cuthbert a saint but rather the man’s whole life gave him the authority to wear the sign of the cross.

So the issue for us should not be whether we have the right to wear a cross but rather whether our lives are worthy of the sign of the cross to be borne by us. Richard is right – we bear the cross, we take it up daily, we follow the way of the cross.  Only then will be worthy to wear it as a piece of jewellery.

Does your life give honour to the one who died there for all?


About pmphillips

Pete Phillips Bio: I'm into the New Testament (especially John's Gospel), technology, literary theory, postmodernism, football and that kind of stuff. I am married to Theresa and we have three great kids (and a Westie called Grace). I'm a Christian and love the whole church thing, which is good because I also work for the Methodist Church in the UK. My formal job titles are: Director of Research for CODEC at St John's College, Durham University and Secretary to the Faith and Order Committee of the Methodist Church.