Thursday, April 1, 2021

Is the cross an oxymoron ?

 These days, leading to Good Friday and Easter, the old hymn, "The Old Rugged Cross", is a favorite among congregations. And, I often wonder if we really think about the words of the hymns we sing. I believe that the cross is a paradox. I mean, there is a truth that is either veiled, or easily passed over. We lift our voices and sing, "I will cherish the old rugged cross", "I will cling to the old rugged cross." Do we really mean, cling to the old rugged cross? What about, cherish, do we really, cherish?


There are few objects that I cherish. My girls gave me a carved stone elephant from Zimbabwe, as a birthday present. I cherish that because of my girls. It is something I hold close and it is very personal. A family heirloom, a fine piece of jewelry, these are items people might cherish. To cherish is to hold close, to gaze upon, understand its value and worth, not necessarily monetary worth. To cherish the cross is to get close and personal. Experiencing the value of the cross means you have come close. Close enough to become appalled at the site, the site of blood, discarded clothing and lives.

I used to find it repulsive thinking about clinging to the cross. What person today would want to place their hands, or worse, their arms and chest, against a post used to execute human beings. The upright of the executioners tool was used over and over until it rotted. The blood of countless bodies would have run down the post and become one with the fibers of the wood. To even think of clinging to such a horrific object should be repulsive. Now, add that our faith, our belief in Christ, centers on the cross. Some would think we are rather barbaric.

If you will come close to the cross with me, if you will be open and vulnerable, you will be able to sing the hymn with honesty and an experiential truth. In order to do that we must accept the horror and humiliation of the execution. Denial will cut short the transformation. Jesus Christ, the Begotten of the Father, the Second Person in the Trinity, the Word and character of God in the flesh, was executed at a time and place recorded in history. His death was real and it was his sacrifice for the sin of mankind. Again, look past the scene and believe that his death was for you.

As you are close to the cross, you must listen to the words of Jesus. He speaks words of forgiveness for his executioners. He speaks words of comfort to his mother and a dear friend. A man, hanging by his side hears words of comfort and life as his earthly life slips away. Listen, as he speaks with parched dry lips for a drink. In his final minutes he cries to his father during his darkest hour, life spent, body broken, blood out poured, he utters his final words and dies.

Standing close, the scene of the execution and the words spoken begin to transform sensitive and contrite hearts. The truth of his sacrifice becomes your truth, the truth of redemption's cost becomes your truth. Your spirit begins to understand that what took place was  for you. Soon, the scene of death and horror seems to fade and peace moves in your heart. With the peace comes new vision, a new eyesight that now looks at the cross and rejoices in the beauty.

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

A Sophisticated Man

 He is a sophisticated man. Every morning his mirror smiles at him. His white hair and beard are perfectly coiffed. Each hair is examined, snipped, combed, and smiled upon. His custom tailored white shirt fits as demanded and every onyx button is stitched securely in place. The lime and blue woven iridescent silk tie from Italy is the perfect accompaniment to shirt and suit.   


He is a sophisticated man. His library is the envy of friends. The patina on the one hundred fifty year old wood is an intoxicant to the eye. Soft light is cast by Tiffany lamps and solid brass wall sconces. His books line one wall. He looks upon them often and smiles. His face instantly reacts as his eyes fall upon his first editions of Hawthorne and Webster. The smile, ignited by the gaze, reminds him of his status and lucrative mind.  The great works of literature speak softly to visitors that here lives a sophisticated man.

He is a sophisticated man. His leather chair is one of the finest. Hand crafted and covered in Romanza Leather, it is exquisite in every detail. The brass buttons at the top of each arm bear the marks of his fingers over long years. The trained eye can see the faint color change in the leather where his elbows have rested as he enjoyed his pipe and brandy.

He is a sophisticated man. To the left of his chair, his Gillow’s Pembroke Table is within easy reach. His pipe and pouch rest within an Ebony bowl, placed exactly at the far left end of the table, though still in reach. The decanter of Courvoisier brandy rests upon its 16th century silver server. The snifter sits next to the decanter, with her opening covered with appropriate sized linen. 

He is a sophisticated man. But, every morning his mirror is deceived. The visage of the perfectly groomed man fails to reveal his uninhabited soul and empty heart. He rests within the safety and luxury of the finest leather on his chair. His lips enjoy his fine brandy. The scent of expensive pipe tobacco lingers long. At the setting of the sun he closes himself shut within the safety of the beauty of wood, leather, brandy and tobacco. The soft leather surrounds him and the curling tobacco smoke hides the solitary tear in his right eye. 

He is a sophisticated man.  The warmth of the pipe bowl comforts the fingers of his right hand. With the warmth of his brandy still smooth on his lips he pulls on the brass knob of his exquisite Pembroke table. With his fine tobacco smoke curling upwards towards the hammered tin ceiling the manicured fingers of his left hand react to the cold stainless steel barrel. The pendulum from the Windsor Cherry floor clock declare the passing of seconds as the manicured fingers from the sophisticated man find and rest upon the cold steel.

He Was a Sophisticated Man.

Monday, October 19, 2020

The Old Piano

 The old upright piano seems nestled, she wouldn't say it that way, in the debris on the side of the village street. Her top and keyboard were covered in dust and soot from diesel engines. Missing cobblestones attempt to embarrass her as one of her legs is tipping towards the rubble at her feet.


The dust and dirt on her top looks streaked as though tears ran down the angled top. Her many fingers, once bright and clean, now covered in dust try to hide the missing ivory caps on five of her fingers. Fingers that could sense the spirit of the musician even before his long and excellently manicured fingers touched hers, now they are silent.

The genius of Mozart and Bach, Chopin and Beethoven had given life to her beauty of wood and wire. The beauty and flow of the wood fibers would come alive, like the breath of divinity giving life to wood that yielded itself to the saw many years before. Now in her humiliation she gives up this life, like so many strewn around her. Will anyone mourn her passing?

This piece was the result of a photograph from WWII taken from a French village.