We Boast in the Cross
“We Boast in the Cross”
Archbishop Loren Thomas Hines
July 3, 2016
Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time
Readings: Isaiah 66:10-16, Psalm 66:1-8
Luke 10:1-12, 16-20
Ordinary Time is a time when our lives should be reflecting the gifts given to us in Christ. The price that was paid for these gifts is astronomical! The Son gave up His place with the Father to come to us, at our level, so that He may bring us up to His level. Last week, we learned that it was for freedom that Christ set us free – freed from slavery to sin and its effects. It was for this purpose that Christ came – to destroy the works of the evil one, set us free from the yoke of slavery, and give us new life. Yet in spite of the work of Christ, time and again, we still find ourselves in anxiety, pain and failure. This is because when problems come, we forget all of the wonderful things that God has done for us. This reminds me of the TV program “Dead Man Walking”. So many of us are like these dead men, walking in death instead of the life given us.
Psalm 66 tells us that we ought to “Shout joyfully to God….sing the glory of His name; make His praise glorious. Say to God, ‘How awesome are Your works!” When was the last time you gave God praise? Compare that with the many times you murmured and complained. God causes all things to work together for our good. He will never fail us. The day will come when the reality of God will come to all mankind and every knee will bow in reverence to His Name.
Isaiah 66 instructs us to “be joyful with Jerusalem and rejoice for her”. Jerusalem is Zion, a name for the people of God. These terms are used in the Old Testament but they are also reflected in the New Testament. They speak of God being joyful and exceedingly glad in His people. We may not see all this happening yet, but they will be true in our lives if we believe. What rules our life – anger, fear and anxiety or the attitude that regardless of what we face, we always believe that it is for the glory of God? Our job as a church is to set people free. We do this by dying to self that Christ may live in us. Our hearts should be filled with confidence, peace and joy. This is difficult when we are faced with the stressful situations of everyday life, like driving thru traffic and having to deal with inconsiderate and rude drivers; but if we respond with the right attitude, we will come out on top. “As a man thinketh in heart, so is he.” The attitude of our heart will dictate the kind of life we will have. When our mind and heart are filled with the love of God, “out of our innermost being shall flow rivers of living water”. Before the fall, man didn’t have to work to eat; he didn’t experience pain. When man disobeyed God, sin and death entered the world, and man has not stopped toiling and struggling ever since. Christ came to give us new life, a life free of sin and its effects. This life is more powerful than death. We may continue to face challenges and difficulties, but they will not defeat us if we don’t allow them to control us and steal our joy.
Isaiah 66:13-14 “As one whom his mother comforts, so I will comfort you….then you will see this and be glad, and your bones will flourish like the new grass; and the hand of the Lord will be made known to His servants. But He will be indignant towards His enemies.” This is what happens when we allow the joy that God put in our hearts to rule our lives. It doesn’t mean that the problems will no longer come, but they can’t stay because our faith will overcome.
Galatians 6:14 “May it never be that I would boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” We boast of nothing else but the cross of Christ; not our education, wealth or stature because all this will pass away. We have not really taken the time to reflect on the cross and realize the gift that it is. Before the fall, man was like God; but when he fell, he lost his place in creation. It was only the love of God that would set man free again. Man can’t do it alone.
It is the work of the church to proclaim the new life God gave us in Christ. If we knew what the cross means, we’d realize the tremendous power it has in our lives. Even before Christ went to the cross, He already showed us what God created us to be when He performed all those miracles – in Cana, in healing the sick, raising the dead, and many more. The cross is the place where the Son of God took upon Himself the sins of man. Many Christians can’t bear to look at Christ on the cross. He was naked on the cross. He didn’t need to cover Himself up. The covering took place in the Garden after the fall, when man suddenly was ashamed of his nakedness.
In the cross nothing was hidden because Christ was there to destroy sin and all its effects, including the shame of our nakedness. It was man who made nakedness evil. St. Paul said that he boasts of the cross because 1) it took away his sins; and, 2) it removed the curse of sin from his life. The curse includes sickness, anxiety, and financial bondage. It was through the cross that we have been restored to our place with the Father as His children.
In the world today, we think that clothing makes a man. We don’t need to be clothed in expensive brands like Gucci or Chanel. What we wear, what we are on the outside does not matter to God because He looks at the heart. There is no shame in wearing simple, inexpensive clothes because God has taken away our shame and everything else that sin brings into our lives. This is why we can boast of the cross. This is why Psalm 66 exhorts us to shout joyfully to God. When we have this attitude in our hearts, even our bones will flourish and our flesh will dwell securely. Our flesh is holy. We shouldn’t be ashamed of who we are, nor hide behind expensive clothes. The only thing that counts is this new life we’ve been given; that we are new creation because of the cross. We should proudly wear the brand marks of the work of Jesus in our bodies.
In the Gospel, the Lord appointed seventy other disciples and sent them out in pairs ahead of Him to bring the good news to the people. Today, as members of His Body, as the Church, we too are sent out into the world to do the same. Many of us are timid to share the good news because we’re still struggling with the old life. We haven’t fully assimilated what the cross means; what it has done for us. This is why we do not have the boldness to share the message of the cross. When Len leaves the hospital, she is going to be a witness of God’s greatness because she experienced something that took her beyond what she knew before.
All of us have been given a measure of faith and all we have to do is join/connect this faith with the faith of Christ for great things and wondrous things to happen. In the Gospel, God commanded those that He sent out to “heal the sick and say to them, ‘The Kingdom of God has come near you’”. We think that sickness is part of life; and this is especially true when we get old. Where is that mentioned in the Bible? It’s time that we wake up to the truth. We are called to prepare the way of the Lord. The name we’ve been given as a church is St. John Preparer of the Way. We’ve been pulled out of the mud. God sends us out as sheep among wolves, to bring the Word to the world. The Word that comes out of the heart destroys the darkness. This is our weapon, not wealth, physical weapons or anything else. Christ destroyed the darkness when He went to the cross. Meditate on what happened the minute He died on the cross – the veil in the temple was torn from top to bottom, the sun was obscured and darkness covered the land, the earth shook, the rocks were split, the tombs were opened and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised. All this happened because of the power that came out of the Lord to destroy all the powers of darkness.
The Holy Spirit in us does the work. We don’t have to rely on our own abilities. It’s our prayer in the Spirit that brings results. It’s the simplicity of our obedience to what God asks us to do that will bring about the miracles. Jesus said, “I was watching Satan fall from heaven like lightning”. The seventy returned with joy because they saw that even the demons were subject to them in the Lord’s name. People were being set free because of the Word shared by a few simple men. This authority has also been given to us. I share this today to set you free. You are healed! God will provide and set you free from financial bondage. The days of Elijah are here – days of simplicity, of simple acts of obedience that produce miracles. Elijah called Elisha to be his successor by simply throwing the mantle over Elisha. He didn’t need to say a word. That’s what Ordinary Time is all about.