The Cross by Bob Wickizer

The Cross
Rev. Bob Wickizer
Isaiah 52:13-53:12
Good Friday, April 21 2000

A few years ago just before Easter I managed to have an afternoon off from work while visiting New York. Heading directly to the Metropolitan Museum of Art I was delighted to discover an exhibition of Byzantine Religious Art. While most of the work exhibited many familiar iconographic images I found myself pausing in front of the handful of ornate crosses in an out of the way corner. Whether gold, silver, brass or lacquered metal, those crosses from the fourth and fifth centuries captivated me with their timeless beauty. At the museum gift shop a while later I even purchased a reproduction of one of the crosses as a gift for a soon-to-be ordained friend.

But as much as I love art and the depths of human feelings we experience through it, I must confess that religious finery such as grand buildings, vestments and art in general and artistically created crosses in particular make me feel uneasy at times. No, it's not because I am some kind of closet Puritan disguised as an Episcopal priest because to the contrary I tend to lean heavily on the arts for deepening our common worship experience. My uneasy feeling flows directly out of a question whether we glorify and worship the wrong things at times. For example, do we glorify the cross and worship Jesus instead of glorifying God and following Jesus?

Our worship embodies many different forms of glorifying the cross ranging from the beautiful processional cross to the triumphal hymn of "Lift High the Cross." But the sad fact remains that if Jesus lived in the flesh among us today, he would manage to offend, frighten and enrage Billy Graham, the Pope, Democrats and Republicans. And somebody or some group in our midst today would find an excuse to execute him. Only today we would employ the tools of modern life for the execution of a political troublemaker. Instead of a cross we would want the execution to proceed swiftly. An elect ...

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