Katie Machmer recently passed to glory. Her family has given a book of pencil art to the church – art connected with the history and life of people along the Danube River in Europe. There is a section of art that in German is called – Die Flucht – the fleeing of people from advancing armies in World War Two. One page caught my eye – of a mother with children fleeing, passing by a large crucifix, a cross with Jesus’ body on it. The cross is on an angle, having been damaged by war. And under this shadow of the cross the family are fleeing. This is Katie’s own story – at age 26 fleeing her village in what is now Serbia, fleeing with her two little children in horse drawn wagons – going through 5 countries to eventual safety. That image is stuck in my mind.
As Christians we are the people of the cross. We are marked with that sign when we are baptized. In our worship at Ascension we have large crosses at the front of both our worship spaces. We are under the shadow of the cross of Jesus, sheltered by him on our life journey. That may not have been through a literal war zone like Katie, but we also have faced dangers, challenges to our life and faith. We may have been tempted to think that God is not with us in our darkest hours.
But the war zone cross reminds us that Jesus is no stranger to suffering and death. I think that God is especially with us when the going is hard. (I’m thinking also of all the 911 crosses made of cross beams from the devastation of the World Trade Center) Being a Christian does not mean we will not face suffering, but it will help to give us a way through it. The cross was Jesus’ mission, and it also gives us our mission, a focus on those who suffer. Our shepherds go out in the sign of the cross, being the presence of the crucified and risen Jesus. Jesus helps us to be alongside of others who are suffering. Jesus helps us to not recoil when we see others suffering, like the current refugees in their fleeing. Lent and Holy Week draw us deeper into the way of the cross. Plan to be at worship as often as you can in Holy Week.
This year the Northland Palm Sunday Evening worship that we hosted at Ascension this year will be at Karl Road Christian. The pastors will again be taking part in a dramatic Gospel reading in that service. Be at Maundy Thursday with its rich symbolism, and to personally hear that your sins are forgiven. Be at Good Friday, especially the Cantata in the evening, as we hear the story of Jesus’ final day, and place a nail at the foot of the cross. Be at Easter Sunday to hear that the tomb is empty.
Thinking of Katie Machmer again, some years back she donated a metal cross which hangs at the back of the sanctuary. I think of that shining cross as a resurrection cross, that Jesus has made a way through death and its dark shadow, and the light of that cross shines on our journey forever.
A blessed Holy Week to you.
- Pastor Tim