The Cross in the Neighborhood
Jeremiah 31:31-34; Psalm 51:1-13; Hebrews 5:5-10; John 12:20-33
4-6-2003 5 Lent
Today we live in a "post-Christian" world. The Christianized world is already behind us as people move on to different things. Visit just about any European church on Sunday these days and you will find plenty of available seating. The vast majority of Europeans these days just don't go to church anymore. In terms of church attendance the United States might be a little better than our neighbors across the Atlantic but on any given Sunday only about 10% of the US population will grace the doors of a church.
It is even getting difficult to build a church in places. Many counties across the United States are actually hostile to church building and they make the process of building a new church far more difficult than building a strip mall or subdivision. After all churches don't pay any property taxes, they don't employ many people and they don't encourage commerce. Why should any sensible county executive want more churches built in his or her county?
In North Carolina a few years ago, an Episcopal Church put three simple crosses in their front yard during Holy Week. Each cross stood up straight reminding the people of Calvary. Within hours of the simple 4X4 crosses going up the rector began receiving complaints from the neighbors telling him that the crosses made the neighborhood look bad.
My favorite post-Christian cross story involves the young couple at the Kmart jewelry counter shopping for one of those popular crosses on a gold chain. The sales clerk looks up at the young woman and asks, "Do you prefer the one with the little man on it or do you like the plain one better?"
To 90% of Americans my friends, Jesus has become nothing more than "the little man on the cross."
In the Middle Ages the wealthy Francis Bernadone wandered into a church in Assisi one day. As he fixed his gaze on the cross above the high ...
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