Monday, April 1, 2013

Memorable Crosses in My Life

It is difficult to go through the Easter season and not consider Jesus' experience on the cross. Although I've seen it portrayed in many movies and documentaries, it is still actually difficult to imagine.

The cross is the symbol for Christianity and the focus of Easter traditions. How many crosses have I seen in my life? Maybe thousands? A few are quite memorable.

My church on Easter 2013
My current church is home, perhaps the most "at home" I've felt in a church. Two crosses hang on either side of the stage. However, on big church holidays, especially Easter, I miss the center cross and alter of a more traditional church.

My childhood Lutheran church
Picture taken in May 2010
when I last attended a service

The cross in my childhood church in Illinois was a large, but plain centerpiece of the sanctuary. It was a traditional Lutheran church, so one might expect this. As a child, I remember being very fearful that one day, the cross might fall. Of course, it never has.

Easter Flowering of the Cross
As I got ready for Easter services yesterday, I was remembering a tradition my former church in Texas used to do for Easter. There was a large cross in the lobby of the church, but only on Easter morning. It was made from sturdy wood (old railroad ties, I think) and covered in chicken wire that held soaked green flower foam pieces in place. Each family was welcome to bring in flowers, maybe from their own garden or something purchased, and add it to a cross. By the end of the "flowering of the cross" after the last service, it truly was a special centerpiece, unique for each year.

At the Youth Gathering in Denver
Summer of 1985

One of my most memorable experiences of a cross was nearly 28 years ago. The youth group of my childhood church  in Illinois traveled to a huge youth gathering in Denver. All week there was great music, inspiring services (including a mass communion), and guest speakers (including former president, Jimmy Carter, which I did not appreciate at the time). Although I don't remember any details, there was a big box that sat in the center stage during the entire skit on the last day of the gathering. At the end, the performers opened the box and up floated this huge, silky cross. I might not remember much from the skit, or the messages I heard throughout the week, but I remember the feeling I had when that cross lifted up out of that box.

Cross at the Crossroads
Pictures taken on our trip "home"
for Christmas 2009

Another memorable cross is the one we drive by on Interstate 57 in Effingham, IL. It is enormous, standing 198 feet tall in the middle of the prairie of southern Illinois. In all the trips we've made past it, we have never stopped to visit. But, what a glorious reminder there for all to see!

My father began painting nearly 20 years ago. He paints all sorts of things - abstracts and landscapes in an array of styles. Each one has a title, an inspiration, and always a deeper meaning than what you see. They also often reflect a passage or message from the Bible. Although his paintings are quite good, some stick out in my mind more than others.

"We All Have Our Own Cross to Bear"
J. Zaccaria
One of my favorite paintings is titled, "We All Have Our Own Cross to Bear." Notice the drag mark? Notice it is suspended, half upright, as if someone "unseen" is holding it?

I think of this painting often. The title is so true. We all have burdens, things that challenge us. And how appropriate that my father's painting shows that burden, but also shows that we are not alone. Someone else is helping us carry our cross.

Is Brielle the cross I must bear? Maybe. There are certainly days I feel like it. Other days, I see her as a reflection of the cross itself.

What makes a particular cross memorable? Something dramatic? Something big? Something personal?

As I consider my most memorable crosses, I cannot help but to think of the original cross. It is more than a memory. More than a symbol of my faith. More than a promise. It is the center of all I am.

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