Friday, September 16, 2005

The Exaltation of the Holy Cross

The Lord sends “seraph” serpents: “seraph” means fiery.
You’ve heard of the “seraphim”:
Isaiah saw them, standing before God,
crying “Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God of Power and Might” and one of them brings fire to purify the prophet’s lips.

The Lord sends fiery serpents as a punishment.
But let’s consider the sort of “punishment” this is.

If you’re out walking with a group,
And someone sees a snake, what happens?
Doesn’t that person say, “Watch out: snake!”

What do you do? You watch out, right?
If you see a snake, say, 10 feet away—
do you think you could avoid it?

I think so.

As with so many Old Testament stories,
The point isn’t simply punishment, or retribution,
But a change in direction:
See a snake—you change direction, right?
It’s always about salvation.

Because notice: even after everyone’s crying,
“snakes, snakes!”—some folks still managed to get bit.
Gotta shake your heads at that, don’t you?

Even then, God provides a remedy:
A bronze serpent, nailed on a pole.
They only had to look at—and it was portable—
They brought it to you!

So notice: we don’t close the distance
between us and God—that’s heresy!
God always closes the distance between him and us
To bring us salvation.

The Cross is not a ladder we built to heaven;
It the ladder God lowered down to us.

A serpent on a pole seems an an odd image of Christ,
till we see what it stands for:
The threat removed; death conquered;
Horror turned to hope.

The Cross stands before our world—
Our world which wanders in the desert—
As a warning, but also as hope—if only we look at it.

We look at the cross, we don’t see a serpent,
But a man, like us, only he is perfect, sinless.

What is he doing on that cross?

Our cross is sanitized: The man on that Cross
Was broken, bloodied beyond recognition.

That’s our wake-up call:
Showing us the future that sin holds in store for us.
It shows what mankind does to himself
under the power of evil.

Who can doubt this, given the signs of our times:
Auschwitz, Rwanda, Planned Parenthood, 9/11.
On the cross, a ruined, murdered man:
That’s what sin does to humanity.

But like Moses’ pole, the Cross is not death but life to us!

Here is the wonder of God’s love:

The Cross should be our fate—
But God made it his own!
God embraced the horror;
And in exchange, gave us life!

So we don’t behold the Cross with fear,
But with hearts bursting with hope.

And now we see how simple it is for any of us
To be a St. Paul to our world. Every one of us can do it.
How? We show the Cross. That’s what we do.

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