Lift High The Cross
I begin each Sunday morning by compiling a list of the church’s prayer concerns. There is a note on my checklist to make sure I haven’t forgotten to add someone, though it still happens from time to time.
It says, “prayer chain, emails, hospitals, shootings,” because, well, we have mass shootings pretty often.
Last Sunday, I added the Orlando shooting to our 8:30 a.m. worship prayers. About 10 minutes after the service, Brent called me into his office and asked if I’d seen the updated death toll from the Pulse nightclub. We decided to have a moment of silence to acknowledge the bloodshed after the Call to Worship. I felt the all too familiar weight of fear in my chest. What kind of world do we live in? How long, O Lord?
When the time came, and Brent called us to silence during the 11:00 a.m. service, a spirit of defiance came over me. The sanctuary was so still. I’d wanted to phrase some eloquent prayer to be shared solely between my Maker and my heart, but all I could think was, “%$@^ violence!” (You can insert your own dirty word, because I’m pretty sure all of them went through my head at that moment.)
And although this is far from my first R-rated conversation with God, it left me with a strange spirit of righteous indignation. With narrowed eyes, and an ember of something burning in my heart, I looked up as Brent said, “Amen.”
And then we sang.
Lift high the cross
The love of Christ proclaim
Till all the world adore his sacred name.
And that ember grew in strength and burned away my fear as the organ and voices filled the silence.
Jesus died a horrible death on the cross. It was torturous and slow. It was cruel and unusual. It was supposed to be an embarrassing, public death. The cross was a symbol of fear, of victory of the powerful over the common people, of the end of rebellion.
But Christ took it back.
When death could not hold him, and he rose again in victory over violence, over hate, over “politics as usual.” The cross became something different.
Now the cross is a promise. Not even death can take us from our King. Torture cannot separate us from the one who made us. Fear and violence can end the chapter, but they will never end the story. The cross reminds us that God always wins. Love always wins. Christ will never leave our sides.
We walk through literal valleys of death, but our God walks with us. I will fear no evil. The world has its guns, its terrorism, its violence. But the cross of Christ comforts me. Lift it high.
%$@^ violence! I will fear no evil.
Rev. Kelly Staples is Associate Pastor and Director of Youth Ministries at NorthPark Presbyterian.