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Hymn: The Tree of Life, stzs. 1-2
Prayer: Heavenly Father, as Your Son bore our sins upon the cross, we ask You to bear us up in Your
grace and patience. Always keep the cross before our eyes so that we know of no one else to turn to for
help and strength in good times and in bad. Bless us so that we live under the shadow of the cross until we
leave this valley of the shadow of death and enter Your glorious light. Amen.
2 Timothy 1:8-10
Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me His prisoner, but share with me in the
sufferings for the gospel according to the power of God, who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not
according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus
before time began, but has now been revealed by the appearing of our Savior Jesus Christ, who has abolished
death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel,
What does it mean, “Lift, High the Cross?”
Is it only a pious sentiment?
Have we accomplished it when put up a big cross prominently outside our church buildings
or front and center in our chancels and every other room of the church?
When we put it on our congregation's stationary?
Do we accomplish it personally when we put up crosses in our homes or around our necks?
I am sure that this is nothing new to any of you, but the cross, by itself, does not save people.
Fill the church with them, fill your house with them,
and not a single person will be saved just by looking at them.
The cross is meaningless... without context.
I am not advocating that we get rid of them.
There are many so-called Christian churches out there that have all but gotten rid of their crosses.
Their worship spaces are devoid of them, as are many of their sermons.
Their counseling centers are full of self-help gurus and motivational speakers.
And unfortunately, that usually means that they have all but gotten rid of their Savior.
No, I am not advocating that we get rid of the cross,
but that the cross be lifted high in our own lives, first by applying it to our own needs
and then by patient and loving applications of it in the needs of others.
First, as I mentioned, the cross must be applied to our own lives.
And in His grace and wisdom, God has seen to it that this can happen on a regular basis,
as we struggle with the various difficulties in our lives.
If you take a moment, can you remember times of temptation and guilt, grave illness or injury,
times of depression, emotional distress, or anxiety, thoughts of hopelessness, fear of death?
Sure you can, at various times in your lives, to varying degrees.
And what is the answer to these difficulties?
Is it bucking up, pulling yourself up by our own bootstraps,
forgetting about it, thinking positively, or forgiving yourself?
Perhaps you tried one or all of these, and yet, they don't satisfy do they?
Maybe they seem to help for a while, but they aren't the answer.
The answer to these and every other problem is the cross of Christ and the resulting resurrection.
In such times, wasn't the cross lifted before your own eyes, by a minister, a spouse, or Christian friend?
It is more than just two pieces of wood perpendicularly fastened together,
more than an ancient implement of execution.
The cross is the altar upon which the Son of God died for your sins and made full atonement.
It is the death blow to the ancient serpent's head.
It is the new Tree of Life.
But wait, Jesus' cross is long gone. How can we benefit from His cross?
Truly, we don't idolize the cross itself; nor do we long to go back in time to be at the foot of the cross.
That would be of no benefit to us.
Instead, we lift high the cross when we highly esteem and partake of the fruit of Jesus' cross,
the fruit that truly makes one wise onto salvation and nourishes spiritual and eternal life.
This fruit comes to us today in water, Word, bread and wine; in Baptism, preaching, and the Lord's Supper.
If, in your own struggles, you remember and cherish the promises God gave you in your Baptism,
what is to hinder you from sharing that joy when someone you know going through similar struggles.
Might they take comfort in God's forgiveness when guilt and anxiety paralyzes them?
Might they look forward to the resurrection to eternal life, when death is at hand?
If you regularly seek refreshment and rest in the Word of Life declared, preached, and taught
through Christ's called and ordained ministers,
Then why “be ashamed of the testimony of the Lord” when others you know are weary and heavy laden
with illness, hopelessness, and distress.
If you in your illnesses, injuries, and sin crave the medicine for immortality, the antidote for the wages of sin,
at the Lord's Altar, hungering and thirsting for Christ's righteousness
as well as Jesus' strength and patience to bear your cross and follow Him,
might not others around you in their times of illness and injury or temptation
desire to know about their Great Physician of body and soul?
You cannot take for granted that everyone knows about Jesus and their benefits through His cross.
Nor can you take for granted that fellow Christians, in their time of distress remember to look to the cross.
You lift high Jesus' cross by living under its forgiveness and mercy in your own life,
and pointing others around you to its fruit distributed in Baptism, Absolution, and Communion.
In a world, in your own life, lived in the valley of the shadow of death,
you have the answer to your needs – it is the cross, or more specifically, the fruit of that cross, Jesus Christ.
It is Him that St. Paul points us to in his own trials and as he stared death in the face.
The answer is Jesus, who has abolished death and brought life and immortality to light
through the gospel. Amen.
Hymn: The Tree of Life, stzs. 3-4