Sermon for Sunday May 10, 2020
Feast of Appearance of the Holy Cross
In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen!
Christ is Risen.
Imagine if you were there. Looking up and seeing the cross. Knowing that the cross means death. How would we feel? How would we react? In the Roman Empire, the cross was meant as a tool of ridicule and death. Only the worst of criminal’s were crucified, that is why crucifixions took place up on hills, so that when others would see it from afar, they would know not to break the laws or else they would meet the same fate. Yet, today we do not live in the Roman Empire, the cross is not used as for capital punishment, so when we see the cross today, what do we feel? Would it strike fear in us, as it did to the 1st century citizens of the Roman Empire? Would it lift us up and fill us with hope?
Throughout the last 2000 years, several apparitions or appearances of the Holy Cross have taken place across the world and people’s reaction has been very different. Some have doubted, some have feared. St. Paul reminds us that for those who don’t have faith the cross remains a folly (foolishness) but for us Christian’s the Cross is something we take pride in, that we must glorify because through it “the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” (v.14) Meaning that when Christ was crucified on the cross for our sins, we was set free and we are no longer a slave to this world. But what if we don’t believe or what if we struggle with our faith? What reaction will we have when we see the cross?
Today, the Armenian Church celebrates the Feast of the Appearance of the Holy Cross. In the 4th century, St. Cyril of Jerusalem and thousands of others, Christian and non-Christian looked up and saw the Holy Cross appear in the skies of Jerusalem for several days – day and night – shining brightly. It stretched from the hill of Golgotha, where Christ was crucified, to the Mount of Olives, where Christ Ascended into Heaven and those who saw all reacted differently. Many ran in fear, because it is believed that seeing the cross was the coming of the end of the world, as we read in the Gospel of Matthew (24:30-36). Many more – prayed. There are witness accounts of how countless individuals and families gathered in Churches, where mass baptisms took place. Yet I wonder, how we would react? If the cross appeared to us, what would we do?
My dear brothers and sisters, the cross which was meant to strike fear into the hearts of the law breakers in Rome, today and through the sacrifice of Christ has been transformed for us into the life giving tool which must pour love into our hearts. Today, that tool of death has been made new, and through it we have, likewise, have been made anew as it says in 2 Corinthians 5:17 – “So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!” Sometimes, when we read of these miracles and stories, such as the cross appearing in the sky, we begin to wonder and say, “If I saw that, I would definitely believe” or “I wish I could have been there to witness that miracle”. Yet, we do not need to see the cross appear in the sky or for it to all of a sudden appear in random places. The cross for us is everywhere and it’s message of salvation through Christ is everywhere. We cross ourselves every time we pray;
The Cross hangs around our necks and it decorates our homes; The cross is in our Churches; The cross is on top of every Church, placed high up for all to see. In fact, in middle eastern cultures, every time you saw a cross of the Church or in the cemetery you would bow down or cross yourself. Because for all humanity the cross today is a sign of hope, it is the definition of love, it is a shield and sword which protects us all. Yet, for those who do not believe, for those break communion with God, the cross remains folly and it remains as a sign of fear, regardless of where it appears.
Today, we are bound to our homes and unsure when we can return to some form for normality in our lives. Today, more than ever in recent history, we have far more questions than answers. However, when it comes to our questions of faith, when it comes to our hope and our salvation, the only place we must turn to is the Cross of Christ.
Today, when we see the cross up high on a Church, in our homes or in the sky, it is a presence and the love of God. For the cross is the Altar upon which our sins are laid upon; the cross remains the ladder by which we rise up to God. Yes, the cross is the tool by which God chose to bring salvation into this world transforming all death into life, all hate into love, all doubt into hope and all darkness into light. And we are called to likewise, use this Cross, as a tool for good in this world.
As we read in 1 John chapter one, “God is light and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have communion with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not live according to the truth; but if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have communion with one another and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from our sins.” (vv.5-7) The blood of Christ, my dears, was spilled upon this cross so that we may live. Therefore, we must remain firm in our faith, turning to God and trusting in Him to also transform our lives. So that when we look up and see the cross, wherever it may appear to us, our hearts will be filled with love, hope and life. So that we will be strengthened to likewise, fill this world with love, hope and life and thereby glorifying our Savior Christ Jesus, with the Father, and Holy Spirit, Amen!
Blessed is the Resurrection of Christ!