Sunday 13th September – Holy Cross
The service is now live-streamed and can be found on the church Facebook page.
Almighty God, who in the passion of your blessed Son made an instrument of painful death to be for us the means of life and peace: grant us so to glory in the cross of Christ that we may gladly suffer for his sake; who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.
Numbers 21. 4 – 9
From Mount Hor they set out by the way to the Red Sea, to go around the land of Edom; but the people became impatient on the way. The people spoke against God and against Moses, ‘Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we detest this miserable food.’ Then the Lord sent poisonous serpents among the people, and they bit the people, so that many Israelites died. The people came to Moses and said, ‘We have sinned by speaking against the Lord and against you; pray to the Lord to take away the serpents from us.’ So Moses prayed for the people. And the Lord said to Moses, ‘Make a poisonous serpent, and set it on a pole; and everyone who is bitten shall look at it and live.’ So Moses made a serpent of bronze, and put it upon a pole; and whenever a serpent bit someone, that person would look at the serpent of bronze and live.
Jesus said to Nicodemus: ‘No one has ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.’
Post Communion Prayer
Faithful God, whose Son bore our sins in his body on the tree and gave us this sacrament to show forth his death until he comes: give us grace to glory in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, for he is our salvation, our life and our hope, who reigns as Lord, now and for ever.
Reflection – Holy Cross
And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.
John’s Gospel understands Jesus’ self-offering on the cross as his exaltation. Thus he is “lifted up” as on a throne. An instrument of death that was meant to be a political statement of Rome’s power, that was meant to humiliate and destroy, becomes in the hands of God an invitation of total love, mercy and forgiveness.
Today’s feast presents us with an opportunity. We can, once again, claim our centre as we are reawakened to the glory of the cross. What happened at Golgotha, is a proclamation of pure love.
While pagan governments may have intended the cross to be a sign of defeat, suffering, intimidation and failure, it means something very different to Christians. For us, the cross is the instrument of our salvation from which Jesus accomplished his greatest ministry: the redemption of the world. The cross of Christ, then, is a reminder of God’s great love for every man, woman and child; it is the source of our forgiveness, reconciliation and peace; it is the means by which all people are offered a sharing in the communion of life and love with God; it is the throne on which Jesus established the kingdom of God in his very person. Do not mistake this for a passive God who is waiting for us to find him. Jesus taught us of a God who will not stop searching until he finds us. Until we are found. God’s passion is us.
The cross reveals with stark clarity the very nature of the activity of the divine love. It is through the cross that we learn that God is love. The cross is the reclaiming of the universe to God’s sovereignty and glory. It is for the healing of the nations. It is also the vindication of Jesus who refused to regard equality with God a thing to be exploited, placing himself at the divine disposition.
As in Jesus, so it is our call to give ourselves to the obedience of God’s self-offering, demonstrating our willingness as God’s people to empty ourselves, take on the form of a servant, lay down our lives in order to give life, all out of a deeply developed and tended life flowing from a relationship with the living Christ. The cross shows us that the way to God is the way of self-giving love. The way of God’s love is the way of the cross, drawing all people to God’s very self.
The Benedictine Nuns of Stanbrook’s hymn for the Office of this feast: ‘O Cross of Christ’, puts it so gently:
” O Cross of Christ, immortal tree
On which our Saviour died,
The world is sheltered by your arms
That bore the Crucified.
From bitter death and barren wood
the tree of life is made;
Its branches bear unfailing fruit
And leaves that never fade.
O faithful Cross, you stand unmoved
While ages run their course;
Foundation of the universe,
Creation’s minding force.”
“We adore you, O Christ, and we praise you, for by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.”