The Cross and the Church
Does the word “headlines” evoke a sense of dread?
You may be old enough to remember current event assignments in school where students were asked to scan newspapers, cut out headlines and bring them to class. This was long before the days of students having immediate access to computers or tablets. In a similar assignment today, would students search titles on their devices only to find most headlines telling of discord? Discord between countries, between political parties, or between neighbors. How many headlines would tell good news?
Good news is a welcome relief, something for which our souls long. The story of a church in Craig portrays that good news while also sharing the Good News. For over 20 years, a lunchtime program has been successfully building relationships in a small community on Prince of Wales Island in Alaska. Boasting a town population of just over 1,000 residents, the church in Craig has been providing friendship and outreach for two decades.
What began as a few friends meeting for lunch, has grown to a noon meal for anyone who is willing to come. An open invitation to the Thursday event has led to the knowledge that “everyone on Prince of Wales Island knows that the Adventist church is a place where all are welcome.” Attendance varies from a few to a full fellowship hall. A simple meal, an opportunity to ask questions, a time to make new acquaintances, and sharing food with welcoming friends demonstrates the horizontal aspect of the cross.
Ephesus did not easily reach out to other believers. The church in Ephesus had challenges when it came to acceptance. A welcoming atmosphere was far from what existed between the Jews and Gentiles. Even though some Gentiles believed and were members of the church of Jesus Christ, they were not accepted by the Jews. Paul describes in Ephesians 2:13-14 that “those who were once far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.” He goes on to say that Christ made us both one. This text describes the duality, or perhaps the unity, of the cross both vertically and horizontally.
We have been made one with Christ and as a result, we can be made one with those around us. There doesn’t need to be separation because of arbitrary guidelines or boundaries, but rather there should be unity because of what Christ has done. The end result of this unity is peace. Since we are connected vertically to Jesus, we experience peace – deep, lasting, strong peace. By accepting the gift of peace and reconciliation from this vertical relationship, we are empowered to reach out to those around us with peace, acceptance, and reconciliation. That is the horizontal aspect of the cross.
Connecting: If willing, share with a partner in a “pair-share” about a time when you felt welcome and included.
Sharing: In Ephesians 2:11-22, Paul uses two metaphors to describe the establishment and strength of God’s relationship to believers. In both of these metaphors the vertical and horizontal aspects of the cross are portrayed. The first metaphor is of a body and the second of a building. Which of the following are true of what Paul describes about you as being reconciled with Christ?
- The law and commandments are abolished in this new being.
- Christ makes us into one body through the cross.
- The foundations on which our relationship with Christ is built includes the apostles and prophets.
- Christ is the cornerstone. All is built on Jesus.
- We continually grow in the Lord. It is cultivated through the Holy Spirit.
Applying: Read over the words of the hymn, In Christ There is no East or West, SDA Hymnal #587. Does the sentiment of the poem express what you believe you and others experience in your church? Does what is articulated in the lyrics of this hymn align with your personal beliefs?
Valuing: Prayerfully read John 14:27, thanking God for the gift of peace. Ask God to reveal to you any areas, or relationships in your life that need peace. Finally pray for the Holy Spirit to guide you in reconciliation in these areas.
~ Joy Veverka