What does cross-ing ourselves reveal about what we believe?
For those of us who observe the church year, Lent begins this week with Ash Wednesday. Many of us will receive an imposition of ashes on our foreheads in the sign of the cross, marking our humility and penitence before God.
Humility and penitence before God, the Owner, is a starting point for the Steward Leader. And our relationship with he Owner is made possible through the cross.
In the cross, God reaches down and makes peace with all creation, specifically offering a reconciled relationship with me.
This is the vertical line of the cross. Thus:
In the cross, God teaches me to make peace with all creation, specifically a reconciled relationship with myself, my neighbors, enemies and even the stranger.
This is the horizontal line of the cross. Thus:
In Christ, God among us, the vertical and horizontal intersect, thus:
When we come to worship, the reminders of the cross are abundant, not just because the pastor makes the sign of the cross over us or because multiple crosses hang on the walls.
The sanctuary of many congregations is laid out with a center aisle that continues up to the table upon which we place the Lord’s Supper (vertical). The congregation gathers on either side of that aisle (horizontal). Even a congregation with the Lord’s Table at the center, and everyone arranged in circles around it, finds itself at the intersecting point of a cruciform.*
Eucharist and our contributions to any offering combine vertical and horizontal. The elements of the Eucharist are brought to the Lord’s Table as offering. The Eucharist is God’s gift to us (vertical), and the offering is an act of worship (also vertical), that funds the worshiping community and serves the world beyond (horizontal).
Our coming to receive the Eucharist reminds us of the cross in two ways. First we move horizontally to the aisle and vertically down the aisle to the Lord’s table (or the flow is reversed as servers move down the aisle to serve us in our seats). Then we move horizontally to the left or right around the table in order to receive, usually beneath the cross as we do.
As we lift up our hands to receive (some of us kneeling as we do), we step in and complete the embrace God has already given from the cross.
When we depart the worship service to serve, we again move from the horizontal position where we found our seats and flow down vertical aisles – God’s ministering representatives flowing out to the world. We are God’s ongoing incarnation because the Spirit of God resides in us.
The most powerful image for me in this incomplete list is that of God offering a suffering embrace in Christ on the cross. God has complete understanding of what it means to be human and no longer able to live fully in God’s image, not just because of Divine knowledge, but because of Divine experience in human flesh, This image is made powerful because I picture myself stepping into God’s embrace. I do so on my knees and with hands upraised, with God reaching down to enfold me.
This embraced and embracing posture is the one I want to remain in as I depart to serve, one of God’s penitents beloved, one of God’s steward leaders.
*A cruciform is something in the shape of a cross.
Mark L. Vincent, PhD, CCNL, is the CEO of Design Group International. He serves as a CLA Leader2Leader facilitator and is actively involved as a subject matter expert and faculty for the CLA Outcomes Academy Online. The 4th edition of his book A Christian View of Money is slated for release in early 2017.
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