Numbers 21:4b-9; 1 Corinthians 1:18-24; John 3:13-17
For those of us who still listen to antennae radio and watch antennae TV, we are familiar with the occasional disruption of normally scheduled programming with that dreadful, screeching noise and beeping of the Emergency Broadcasting System that gets our attention that something disastrous is about to happen. We hear that sound, we are on high alert and listen to what comes next because our lives may depend upon the next couple of sentences.
That screeching noise is intended to pull us to the information source regardless of where we are or what state of attention we happen to be in at the moment.
One way of looking at the festival of the Holy Cross is to view it as an alert of the EBS. Something very important is going on and your full attention is needed.
The Apostle Paul makes clear – we are in need of saving. The way of salvation is the cross of Jesus Christ.
The cross is truly an arresting symbol. The cross is a sign of oppression, torture, shame, punishment and a ghastly death. In the first century, seeing a cross on a hill far away is not a comfort, but a terror. Unto this instrument of terror God Incarnate sacrificed himself so that we may be saved.
Saved from what?
God saves us from our delusions of grandeur or who we are in relation to God.
Because we are created in the image of God, there is within us a self-confidence that we can imagine, think, or do something that will get us out of whatever hole we have dug for ourselves.
The first example of this is Adam and Eve in the garden. They became aware that they had an intellectual deficit because they did not know the difference between good and evil. So, they followed the advice of the original self-help guru who presented them with an action plan to reach their fullest self and potential.
Do this; learn this. You will be better. That is the pattern that was set for us. Eat this fruit; you will gain knowledge and that knowledge will be everything you need.
Well, that has not worked out so well for us. Adam and Eve are banished from paradise. And, they go on to produce the very first murderer.
Cain becomes jealous of Abel because God favors Abel’s sacrifice. What’s the solution? In his twisted way of thinking, it is simply, ‘eliminate the competition.’ Cain kills his brother.
Not only do Adam and Eve know good and evil, so does Cain. Knowledge is not enough. Knowledge, self-awareness – all of which are truly important – do not save Cain from his sins. Instead, his sins consume and define him.
We continue to put an enormous amount of energy and money into wisdom and doing. The cost of educating a child from K-12 is America is a considerable chunk of change. If they go on to University, and then to Graduate School – it is even more expensive.
We value education and the acquisition of knowledge. But knowledge does not save us from our sins. Only God can do that. Jesus saved us by his death on the cross. Jesus says in the gospel of John: “for God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.”
We are asked to put our faith, our trust, our hope, not in our own wisdom and knowledge and efforts, but in the God whose love bears the agony of the cross for us. As Paul says “For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”
If we have been slipping in our faith; if we have been falling for the whispers of deception about sinful desires and sin-filled culture and been convinced of our own self importance and abilities before God…. then the message of the Holy Cross is a message for us. Loud and clear we need to hear it. We are to have faith in Christ alone. Only Christ, the crucified one can save us!
All God’s people say…Amen.