“LIFTED UP FROM THE EARTH”
Saint John 12. 20-33
HOLY CROSS DAY: 14 September Anno + Domini 2014
Fr Jay Watson SSP
In The Name + of Jesus
You were conceived and born in sin. You are a sinning creature by nature. The reason you age, break down, get sick, lose loved ones, and die yourselves is that you are sinners. If you don’t like this kind of talk and reject it—and reject the messenger—that’s just too bad; it doesn’t change the reality. You can shake your fist at the sky when it’s raining or at the equation of 2 plus 2 equals four, but that doesn’t change the facts of WHAT IS!
According to post-Nicene historians such as Socrates Scholasticus, the Empress Helena, mother of Constantine, the first Christian Emperor of Rome, travelled to Palestine in 326, founding churches and establishing relief agencies for the poor. Historians Gelasius of Caesarea and Rufinus claimed that she discovered the hiding place of three crosses that were believed to have been used at the crucifixion of Jesus and the two thieves. It is said a miracle revealed which of the three was the True Cross.
Many churches have claimed to possess fragmentary remains of the True Cross. Their authenticity is not accepted universally by those of the Christian faith and the accuracy of the reports surrounding the discovery of the True Cross is rightfully questioned. Nonetheless Lutherans, as Catholic Christians of the West may still honor and respect Helena for her piety, charity, and interest in Saintly artifacts.
But though the wooden beams upon which Our Lord purchased forgiveness for the world seem to be lost forever, it was never the wood as wood, the cross as a cross that had any worth or merit—hence the ornamental “barren” crosses—without the corpus—our woefully inadequate to express the Historic lections for this morning’s Mass. The pole was not barren but had a brass serpent. Paul didn’t peach the cross-beams of “four-by-fours” but of the God/Man hanging on the tree. The Lord Himself says the glory is when [He] is “lifted up from the earth.”
You are the New Israel, the Church of the Living God, yet you spend much of your days whining like Desert Hebrews and complaining like spoiled children: “and the people spake against God and against Moses.” Whether you refrain from openly cursing the Lord’s Name or not, you do not invoke it as you should in prayer, praise and thanksgiving. You do not Honor His Name in your actions—your lack of pious practices—or in your attendance to His Word. You are more often than not like Martha of Bethany and not like Saint Mary. And you do speak against God’s modern day Moseses! When Christ speaks of His Holy Office of under-shepherds “he that receiveth you receiveth Me” [Mt. 10.40], which Melanchthon quotes in the Symbols, He is also saying that those who reject His apostles reject Him and His Father. And that’s what selfish prodigal sons do isn’t it: “for there is no bread, neither is there any water; and our soul loatheth this light bread.” [Nu. 21.5] We don’t put the Lord above all things. We don’t love and serve our neighbor. We don’t bridle our tongues and rend our lustful hearts. We don’t daily meditate on The Word and daily drown the old Adam. We dance around the golden calves of mammon and self. We bow our knees not to Christ in genuflection but to our own feelings and intellectual superiorities.
But the “hour is come, that the Son of man should be glorified.” The Mass has arrived and the Holy Spirit has, by Jesus the Word, assembled you all once again in this sheepfold. You are not old Adam when you are IN JESUS. In Christ you are NEW ADAM for Jesus is The NEW ADAM. He is the true Israel and you are, IN HIM, the Children of Israel. In His Holy Cross which is the Crucifix and not the bare wood, you have the content of The Faith and the content of your forgiveness of sin(s). In that Body and Blood once upon the tree, and now in the font, in the Word, in the Absolution, and in the Chalice, you have heaven, salvation, life, and peace which passeth understanding.
The “certain Greeks” were right to “[come] up to worship at the feast.” They were looking for the consolation of Israel along with believing Jews such as Philip and Andrew. Desiring the Old Testament Passover was good because it pointed to the Cross—the Crucifix—the Christ. Their most famous request is forever on the lips of pastors to be spoken right before the homily commences: “Sir, we would see Jesus.”
And where does the homily direct you? Where did Philip and Andrew usher those Greeks, those fellow Gentile believers? They went straightaway to Jesus and let the Word Himself show forth salvation.
God the Son speaks not of cleansing lepers, walking on water, raising Lazarus, being Transfigured between Moses and Elias, conquering the devil during the 40 days, or even of keeping the Law perfectly for 33 years…though all of these things were necessary and essential in Christ’s mission of Redemption. But no; Jesus talked about the Holy Cross—the bloody execution instrument of the Crucifix.
“Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone; but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit.” Christ is talking of His suffering, death, entombment…and His Resurrection. “This preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness, but unto [you] which are saved it is the power of God.” Your power is not in your arms and lungs or in your family and friends. Your power is not in your nation, financial portfolio or vocational skills. Your power is not in your good feelings and intentions or in your strivings. Your power is not in your wisdom and high I.Q.s. He destroys the wisdom of the wise. Jesus preached His crucifixion; so did the Apostle; so did Moses by the “type” of the brazen snake on the pole, and so does the Church today!
The serpents which killed were made a sign, an ensign, a banner of victory. By placing them on the pole, portraying them as defeated—death was mocked and captivity was lead captive. So too the true serpent Satan was in reality killed and defanged of all his real power and venom when Christ Jesus took the results of Satan, the world, and your old Adam—i.e. sin, upon Himself, becoming sin for you, becoming like unto a worm, or a pierced snake, for you. Christ on the Cross is now your Crucifix life, form, ensign and banner of victory.
“He was lifted up from the earth” and in the joyous Gospel words that proclaim this triumph He draws all men unto Himself. His Glory is in His laying down His life for His friends, for you, and for His enemies as well—the world. The unbelieving Jews, then and now, will reject Him as an insufficient “sign.” The unbelieving Greeks, then and now, will reject Him as not an intellectually rigorous and philosophically wise enough leader. “But we preach Christ crucified…the power of God and the wisdom of God.”
Your old nature wants more but your old nature is crucified and dead IN CHRIST. He loved you so much that He lost His life for you. He hated your damnation so much that He suffered the pain of hells damnation in your stead so that would inherit paradise. This is His hour. The Father now glorifies you as He Glorifies the Crucified and Risen One. The Holy Cross—the Crucifix—today is lifted high among the Eagles: “behold the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world.”
In The Name of The Father and of The + Son and of The Holy Ghost