Transformation (May 2, 2012)

…Opening To…

Worship is a way of seeing the world in the light of God. (Abraham Joshua Heschel)

…Listening In…

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “ All who want to come after me must say no to themselves, take up their cross, and follow me. 25 All who want to save their lives will lose them. But all who lose their lives because of me will find them. (Matthew 16:24-25; context)

…Filling Up…

Today, we begin our worship series with the first of twelve “moments” that happen during a standard Episcopal communion service. We’ll look at them in order, and although we won’t have the space to hit every piece of the service, the twelve we will look at will help us order our lives. So without further ado, the first “moment” is pretty much the first thing we do when we enter the church.

At the head of the procession an acolyte carries the cross. Have you ever wondered why we do that? There are a couple of reasons and the most obvious one can keep us from seeing the less obvious one. The obvious one is that the cross is the most recognizable Christian symbol of all – and Jesus tells us to pick up our crosses and follow him. What better way to remember that command than to carry one during our church services?

But the less obvious reason for carrying the cross into and out of the service has to do with what the cross represents. The cross is a made specifically to kill someone in a very painful, very public way. The Romans would line the main streets leading to cities with crosses to remind those they had conquered about the consequences of going against Rome. Thus the cross was a means to induce fear, which led to domination and control.

But Jesus changed all that. While the Romans continued to put people to death using crosses after Jesus rose from the dead, the trajectory of the cross as a symbol has arced toward freedom, love, hope, salvation and the constancy of relationship. These are the utter opposites of the Roman definition of the cross. The keyword here is “transformation.” Jesus transformed the cross from an instrument of death into an instrument of life.

We carry the cross into and out of church services to remind ourselves that when we are in worship, we too are participating in a transformative action. Worshiping God changes us, transforms us into better lovers, better servants, better people. And the cross is a symbol of that transformation.

…Praying For…

Dear God, your Son died on the cross, but through his rising again he took the symbol of death and changed it into a symbol of life. Help me, in my walk with him, always to choose life, that I may live a full and abundant life in you. In Jesus Christ’s name I pray. Amen.

…Sending Out…

I leave this moment with you, God, ready to order my life around your movement in it and hopeful that you will continue to show me the way.

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