Hello to all the Monthly Minute readers of West Hempfield Presbyterian Church!
It is tradition at WHPC that the cross in the front of the sanctuary is replaced with a crucifix during Lent.
We aren’t making the switch for the full season of Lent anymore, but it still happens. Keep an eye out. This year the crucifix will be up from March 17 through Good Friday.
You don’t often see a crucifix in Protestant churches like ours. Protestant theology tends to put the emphasis on the resurrection, rather than on the crucifixion. The empty cross, like the empty tomb, speaks more to Christ’s victory over death, rather than his suffering on the cross.
Neither is wrong though. Both are necessary and important. We have a choice regarding where we place the emphasis, but we can’t ignore the rest.
It’s not just two options either. As with much of Scripture there is a lot of rich meaning in every word and image.
The crucifixion, as an example, causes many to reflect on the suffering of Christ.
Indeed, crucifixion was an extreme amount of suffering. It is hard not to think about how Christ suffered while nailed upon the cross.
But let’s not forget, the cross was also humiliating.
Much of the suffering took place in public. Crowds would gather to watch. And they mocked and insulted Jesus (Luke 22:63).
Rome wanted it this way. A public humiliation that said, “This person thought he was special, but he was nothing compared to the might and power of Rome.”
In fact, Rome thought might and power were the only things that mattered. There was nothing, in their view, worse than looking weak.
Honestly, this way of thinking still exists. Many today, like ancient Romans, are afraid of looking weak.
Many choose to put their faith in whoever seems strongest. How many ads basically boil down to just “I’m strong, the other guy is weak”?
This was how Rome squashed rebellions. Not just by killing the leader, but by humiliating them so that no one would follow them anymore.
But Jesus taught a different way.
Jesus had all the power and might. He could have commanded an army of 12 legions of angels (Matthew 26:53).
Instead, Jesus chose the way of compassion, the way of peace, the way of humility.
And Jesus calls us to take up our cross and follow him (Mark 8:34). To humble ourselves. Because, after all, the student is not above the master (Luke 6:40).
The crucifix reminds us to reject the seductive call of power and might, and instead to embrace humility.
Blessings, Rev. Andrew Wirt