Friday, December 11, 2009
The Mystery of the Cross and What Are We Placing Our Hope In?
It’s Friday and been a difficult week here. My mother went into the hospital on Monday with a mini-stroke. I don’t think I would call anything mini concerning my health, but I’ll leave the term to the professionals. Anyhow, three days later, my mom went home. That was enough to turn my house upside down, so my apologies for not getting further on the Spiritual Gifts series. After this article, I will probably take the weekend to regroup and begin posting again on Monday. The only interruption next week will be Thursday as I talk about what I’ve read from Blind Sight.
So on to what should have been done this morning. I wanted to do a little research first so that my thoughts would be clearer. I found the two things I wanted to include in this article, so here we go.
Have you ever wondered how the current crosses you see came to be? Have you thought about some of the cool looks of the cross in the past? If you have, I have a book to recommend for you. Judith Couchman recently sent me a copy of her new book, The Mystery of the Cross, Bringing Ancient Christian Images to Life. The book takes an almost devotional look at different appearances of the Christian throughout history. But it does more than that.
The key to this book for me was to see how different ideas developed by Christians to use the cross to show that they were believers. One of the middle sections of the book talked about how the crosses became designed according to the culture, then followed with other ways the cross was used. It was used in ancient moneys and one of my personal favorites, as the handle of candles. If you thinking of scripture, so was I. “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path (Psalms 119:105).”
As I continued reading, I started thinking about the cross in my lifetime. What have I noticed? The first recollection was in my early college years in West Virginia noticing a bunch of sets of crosses going up along interstate and major roadways. They were put up by a man named Bernard Coffindaffer. He lived in Craigsville and had come to the Lord later in life at the age of 42. I remember somewhere reading that he had wanted to put a set in each county in West Virginia. From reading Sarah Cooper’s blog from 2007, she states that Coffindaffer had put up 352 sets in the Mountain State alone. He raised over three million to make the dream come true.
In all, he posted 1,864 sets across 29 states and in Zambia and the Philippines. He wasn’t trying to make sinners feel bad, but he wanted a reminder of the Savior he had come to know. Coffindaffer passed in 1993, but those crosses remain.
The second strong reminder of the cross is within five miles of my home. The Cross in Effingham was my first memory of coming to the town over six years ago. If you are driving north on Interstate 57 or east on Interstate 70, it will be the first thing you see coming into Effingham. It is the tallest of all crosses in America and the steel structure is 198 feet tall. The Cross in Effingham is one of those symbols that reminds me that my wife and I didn’t come here by chance. God wanted us to be here and be a part of His work.
I thought of one more thing as I read the book. I thought of how Christian influence shaped the cultures that it kept going into. A lot of the historical crosses in Europe and the Middle East bear not only Christian attributes, but also pagan or non-Christian attributes.
One of the many examples of this in Couchman’s book is on page 115 as a group of people in Scotland called the Picts began making crosses on boulders and stone slabs. She states, “The circles, spirals, inter-laced lines and curvilinear beasts of migratory art embellish a Christian cross on the slab’s front. The back of the slab memorializes a hunt scene and unidentified Pictish symbols.”
I also learned about how doorknockers began. It was one of the ways the people in 6th century Israel showed their Christianity. The neat thing about these doorknockers were that the people believed that the cross in the doorway would protect the people within.
I thought about that. What do we believe protects us? Is it the cross? Is having money that states “In God We Trust?” Over the years, have we forgotten that it is Christ, His blood, His power, His love and compassion for us as sinners that keep dominion over us?
Finally, I think I also tire of people wearing crosses, putting bumper stickers on their cars, the old WWJD bracelets. It shouldn’t be because we have symbols on our bodies or anything else we own. It should be because Jesus is sown into our hearts and minds, living for Him. I found this video that shares the feeling. The song featured is Michael W. Smith’s Cross of Gold. The song was done in the early to mid 90’s and I believe it was on the Color Your World CD. Don’t quote me, I’m not looking at my CD collection.
Enjoy the video and ponder how you represent Christ. Because inevitably, it is us that represent Christ.
If you’d like to purchase a copy of Judith Couchman’s great book, The Mystery of the Cross, you can find it at your local Christian bookstores, on the internet at places like Amazon and also at ivpress.com. Thanks again for Judith send me a copy so that I could read and share a little something with you.
I love you guys!