I recently participated in a one-day pilgrimage that focused on the symbol of the cross. We explored its centrality and importance in Celtic Christianity, and had opportunities to consider our own life of prayer.
It got me thinking about the cross.
It’s a rather ubiquitous symbol, even outside of the church grounds. In fact, in some cases, it’s more prominent outside of churches than in them.
I always cringe when I find a crossless church. I have been in many modern sanctuaries and places of worship where a cross is hard to find, perhaps only represented in silhouette or by the negative space created by some architectural ingenuity. Sitting in my church during this day of reflection, I counted 9 crosses visible from my place in the pews. I was satisfied.
But perhaps even more disturbing should be the presence of a churchless cross. One can easily find necklaces, earrings, t-shirts, paperweights, greeting cards, ornaments, and all manner of paraphernalia displaying a cross. But I wonder: how often are those crosses–and their owners–completely detached from the Church? How often do these crosses exist in isolation, symbols presented with no intention of them actually pointing to anything of substance?
That’s not to say that we can’t use this symbol outside of the churchyard. But do we use it with intentionality, with a desire to be reminded of the heritage, the community, the truth of our faith in Jesus Christ?
Some might say that this display of overt religiosity and intentionality would be offensive. But then, that’s the point, isn’t it? A device for execution redeemed to represent the victorious Christ and majesty of God and presented with firm conviction isn’t likely to be welcomed by the world. But we seem to be trying our hardest to make it so.
We cannot rightfully separate the Cross from the Church. The sacrifice of God without the people of God is void. The people of God without the majesty of God are bereft and hopeless.
Let us hold both the Church and the Cross, the community and the Christ, as intimate aspects of our life and perspective, our worth and our worship.