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Pastor's Monthly Newsletter Message

March 2010

Dear Friends,

If anyone were to peruse my most precious possessions, he or she would come upon a collection of beautiful crosses. The very moment I set that phrase to paper, however, I realize that of all the oxymora I have ever recited in rhetoric, this is the most intrinsically incongruous. To whatever degree we would romanticize the cross, there is nothing whatsoever beautiful about the cross. It is such an ugly, horrific instrument of torture that one wonders how God could employ it in his ultimate act of salvation. I suppose C.S. Lewis’ classic comment imbues some meaning into our Heilesgeschichte—our salvation story: “God uses all the wrong roads to bring us to the right places.” God used the Via Dolorosa—the road to the cross—to bring us to the glorious place of salvation.

Emil Brunner, Christian theologian of the twentieth century, agrees that the death of God’s Son on the cross is an absolute “must” in God’s scheme of things. It is an historical necessity since the human situation of sin and guilt in relation to God is dangerous, sinister, and disastrous; and only God can accomplish his reconciling work in our encounter with God. It is only because the cross “must be,” that what seems to be an unintelligible tragedy becomes a significant saving act…. in point of fact, the reality that “it could not be otherwise” demonstrates that the death on the Cross was no accident, no thwarting of the divine plan of salvation, no frustration of divine government of the world, but, on the contrary, was itself an integral part of the divine saving history. “Therefore, Christ had to suffer”—the whole liberating truth is based upon this “must”… Paul’s statement that He (Jesus the Christ) “was obedient unto death, even death on a cross” can be considered the shortest and most effective summary of the whole life of Jesus. His crucifixion was “the must” to which he was obedient. [i]

We - who find our society’s present predilection for violence repugnant - want to ask whether God’s salvation couldn’t have been attained otherwise than through the bitter cross?

Dorothy Sayers in effect posed the same question:

Hard it is, very hard,
To travel up the slow and stony road
To Calvary, to redeem mankind; far better
To make but one resplendent miracle,
Lean through the cloud, lift the right hand of power
And with a sudden lightning smite the world perfect.
Yet this was not God’s way, Who had the power,
But set it by, choosing the cross, the thorn,
The sorrowful wounds. Something there is, perhaps,
That power destroys in passing, something supreme,
To whose great value in the eyes of God
That cross, that thorn, and those five wounds bear witness.

What is this something supreme that the divine gesture of power would destroy rather than elicit? It’s faith, faith and obedience together. The right hand of power would surely evoke our fear and awe; but only the cross can kindle faith, and only faith as a response to Christ’s sacrificial love can inspire homage.

I did not know the meaning of Cross:
I counted it but bitterness and loss:
Till in Thy gracious discipline of pain
I found the loss I dreaded purest gain…
Yea, in the Cross I saw Thine open face,
And found therein the fullness of Thy grace.

God’s saving act is complete only when you and I believe and when, at the name of Jesus, every knee shall bow.

Faithfully yours,
Calvin Coolidge Wilson, Interim Pastor

[i] See Emil Brunner, Dogmatics, Vol. II, The Christian Doctrine of Creation and Redemption: The Saving Work of God in Jesus Christ, pp. 281-305.
[ii] Dorothy L. Sayers, The Choice of the Cross, from The Devil to Pay
[iii] George Wallace Briggs, Knowledge Through Suffering, from stanzas 2 and 3