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The Cross Marks the Spot

Colossians 1:13-20

Proper 29, C

In Dealey Plaza, Dallas, there painted in the middle of Elm street is an unassuming “x”. If you were not acquainted with American history you might be forgiven for walking past it not knowing what it means. But if you were passingly familiar with November 22 1963, the Texas School Book Depository, or Lee Harvey Oswald then you might stop and ponder for a moment the terrible significance of those two crossed lines of paint. They mark the exact spot where nearly 60 years ago President John F. Kennedy was assassinated before horrified spectators and a stunned world.

Scholars and pundits have argued a great length as to the significance of that tragic event. While he was not the leader assassinated in office, nor will he, sadly, be the last; for 60 years his death has been seen by many as something different. What might have been if only he hadn't died so young, so untimely? How would our world be different today? Would it have changed US relations with Russia or China? Would Vietnam have played out differently? Would there be less division and distrust between government and her people, due in large part, some argue, to those who followed in his office? Putting aside all the lingering conspiracy theories surrounding the president's death, most people do agree that on that November day 60 years ago the United States lost their innocence. Lost, in a very palpable way, their idealism that everything would only ever get better as time went on.

It is a pall that many people still struggle under today ... and for good reason. We've spent the last few weeks looking at all that the scriptures tell us of what must be before the end. We have compared that to what we see going on in the world around us, and it does not make for an idealist picture. I'm not sure that anyone still holds to the idea that things are only getting better. We just seem to go from one bad thing to another. One weak or corrupt leader to another. But then again, not even JFK was without his certain public shortcomings. And so, I think even if he had avoided that spot marked on the pavement in Dealey Plaza, it wouldn’t have changed the world we live in today. At least not significantly. The world was broken 60 years ago, and it is broken now, and not even a beloved leader like JFK can change it.

But there is one man who did save it. On another fateful day long long ago, in an event equally profound, and seemingly tragic, a popular young leader was killed in his prime. Witnessed again, by horrified spectators and a stunned world. If you were not acquainted with Biblical history you might be forgiven for walking past the signs of that cross not fully knowing what it means.

Yet in those ubiquitous symbols of the Christian faith, looming large at the front and on the top of every church, etched and embossed in book upon book, wrought in silver and gold and hung on bedroom walls, and countless necks … in that unassuming cross rests the memory of an event (THE event) of world-changing significance. Scholars and pundits have argued a great length as to the significance of that tragic event. And there are of course, all kinds of lingering conspiracy theories surrounding the events. But in that death of Jesus Christ on a cross outside of Jerusalem the world forever changed. Not through innocence lost, rather innocence restored. Not in the death of idealism, but in the birth of hope, and faith, and love.

Jesus our king delivered us from darkness to His own kingdom. He redeemed this world from death and destruction. Defeated the ancient enemies of mankind - sin, death and the devil. He gave us a future that will not only be better, but the very best. And the cross, marks the spot where it all happened.

Jesus is the Son (from Malachi) that God the Father was not willing to spare, giving Him into the hands of sinners, turning Him over to the powers of this world. Consigning Him to death on a cross. Not sparing the one who served His Father's holy purpose … because He was also serving us in taking up that cross.

Jesus is the compassionate ruler, who at the same time that He is being crucified shows the full nature of His promise, when first He prays for His tormentors, and then secondly, consoles and comforts the thief beside Him with the promise that has echoed for centuries in sick-beds, and late night vigils, “today you will be with me in paradise” (Lk 23:43b). Jesus, the suffering servant, also becomes Christ the King… just not quite yet, for death, descent into hell, and resurrection are yet to come in the Gospel story. First there will be pain and grief, and all kinds of second guessing and “what if” questions, But even still the promise is to you.

18bHe is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. 19For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.

Jesus is the King who is coming (even as He was promised in Malachi), and on the day of the Lord's coming, He will throw open the floodgates of heaven in blessing and also curse whole nations, For He is indeed is the ruler of heaven and earth. Things are not out of control even now. They are firmly in hand … His powerful, nail-scarred hands.

13He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, 14in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. 15He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities — all things were created through him and for him. 17And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18And he is the head of the body, the church.

Jesus is the ever-present help-in-trouble. God who is both our refuge and strength. He is the one who will be exalted among the nations and in the earth. It is tragic when a leader is stolen from his people. But it is glorious when the rightful king lays down His life that His people might live in peace and security after Him. This is the Christ we worship and trust with our very lives. The Holy One who created all things, and still holds all things together. The One who’s willing sacrifice gained us redemption through the forgiveness of all our sins. The One and only ruler of all things and the Head of the Church. The One who gives us all good things through that Church and its Word and Sacraments, not the least of which is the promise of everlasting life with Him in the glories of His eternal Kingdom. And in that everlasting promise we rejoice, in the face of all that this world may yet take from us.


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