Sermon for Sunday, September 12, 2021

September 12, 2021

Amandus J. Derr
Interim Senior Pastor

Numbers 21:4b-9; Psalm 98:1-4; 1 Corinthians 1:18-24; Saint John 3:13-17
In nomine Jesu!

I’ve needed eyeglasses for 65 years. My parents discovered this when I was in second grade; and so it began. Now, I can’t see a thing without them, and I always put them on, even when it’s too dark to see.  I need a vision check annually and, each time I get new lenses, I’m surprised by how clearly and distinctly I can see.

Holy Cross Day is the annual vision exam for every baptized child of God.  Using today’s readings, Moses, Paul, and Jesus check our vision and then prescribe the exact lenses we need to see everything around us, about us, and even within us as clearly and distinctly as God sees.  No surprise here: The lens God uses, and the lens God prescribes for us to use is Christ’s cross. Today God is correcting our vision by holding up Christ’s cross before us and asking us to see everyone, everything, everywhere through the lens of Christ’s cross.

You might think this is a no-brainer; that every Christian sees everything through the lens of Christ’s cross because, as we were taught and as we still teach our children, Christ’s cross is the center of everything – the Scriptures, the sacraments, the Church, human society – everything. Yet sometimes we forget this and sometimes life is so dark that we don’t think these corrective lenses are necessary, or even helpful.  But most problematic of all in these days and in this society is this fact:  the loudest, most visible, most powerful people who call themselves Christians around us do not see everything through the lens of Christ’s cross but through another lens, a biblical lens to be sure, but far away from faith’s focus or Scripture’s center.  These days, because of their visibility and their audibility, we, who say we boast of nothing but Christ’s cross, need to keep our vision corrected and our message clear and distinct.

I need to be brief today, so I’ll be direct:  For our fundamentalist friends, family and neighbors, the cross of Christ is, to be sure, important personally, but is not the center of the Scriptures and not the lens through which they see.  For them, that lens is Christ’s coming again — in power, with armies of angels – to destroy those labeled evil and to incinerate the old, evil world and create a new, purified heaven and earth where only “the elect” will live.  And so the most important task for them is to make sure they are on the right side and to identify – “to see” – those who are, in their judgment, on the wrong side, label them and marginalize them; and the sooner this judgmental, divisive, old-earth-destroying God comes, the better.  Every public policy we abhor, every concern that we have that they abhor, flows from that basic vision.  Is that vision biblical?  Yes, but marginal, not central, to the Scriptures.  Not central to Jesus’ teachings and life.

And that’s what makes today’s vision-correcting readings and Gospel so important for God to prescribe and us to use today.  For from the cross Jesus says and God promises “to draw all people” to God’s own self, not dividing or discriminating, but inviting and embracing.  God prescribes that we see all people that way; as God sees.

On the cross, Jesus forgives all – even those who made themselves his enemies – and from the cross Christ restored all – the repentant bandit dying on his left; his own mother grieving below him; his own disciples who fled from him and who hid away from risking themselves and confronting the powers that killed him too. God prescribes that we see, forgive, restore all people, risk ourselves for all people and confront such powers that way; as God sees.

On Christ’s cross, and through Christ’s cross, God so loved the world, and destroyed the powers of evil, not “wisely” with superior power and irresistible violence, but as Paul says, “foolishly” by become one with those who are least and last and lost – and dead!  That dead whom God raises!  The least, last and lost whom God lifts up. God prescribes that we see and love the world that way; as God sees.

There is so much more that can be said, but you get the picture, you see as God sees, not from the top down, but from the bottom up. Clear-eyed.  Cross-eyed, if you will.

Holy Cross Day is our annual vision checkup. Holy Communion is the nourishment we need to keep our vision bright and clear.  That’s why the invitation always is “Taste and see that the Lord is good!”  “Taste and see everything –- the world God so loved — through the lens of Christ’s cross; even when it seems too dark to see.

Amandus J. Derr
Interim Senior Pastor