The Sign of the Holy Cross

Rev. Jacob Ehrhard

In the name of + Jesus. September 14 is the Festival of the Holy Cross. It was on this day in the year 326 A.D. that Helena, the mother of Emperor Constantine, is said to have discovered the cross of Jesus Christ hidden in Jerusalem. It's a nice story, and quite possible that the cross upon which Jesus died was still around 300 years after His death (after all, the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia is nearly 300 years old, and we have no reason to doubt its authenticity). But then again, a lot of things happened in Jerusalem during those three centuries, and many people died on crosses under the Romans; it could have been any one of their crosses. It's just as easy to doubt this story as it is to believe it.

For us Lutherans, the celebration of the Holy Cross isn't about going halfway across the world to try to find some ancient lumber. And it's certainly not about worshipping a tree. Let all those relics be thrown into a wood chipper. The True Cross for the Christian is more about water than about wood. Receive the sign of the holy cross, both upon your + forehead, and upon your + heart to mark you as one redeemed by Christ the crucified. The Holy Cross is your baptismal gift.

This is what Jesus means when He says, "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it" (Matthew 16:24-25). That's precisely what happens in Holy Baptism. You lose your life because you are buried with Christ, by baptism, into death. And in those same waters you find your life, for just as Christ was raised from the dead, you also walk a new life. I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me (Galatians 2:20). To bear your cross is to be baptized.

In the morning when you get up, make the sign of the holy cross and say: In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. Then, kneeling or standing, repeat the Creed and the Lord's Prayer. Repeat the drill in the evening, says the Small Catechism. With the cross comes God's name. And there is nothing truer. Because you have God's Name and cross, given by water and Word, there is no doubt whatsoever that you have the True Cross and all the gifts of the One who was crucified upon it.

The royal banners forward go;
The cross shows forth redemption's flow,
Where He, by whom our flesh was made,
Our ransom in His flesh has paid:

Where deep for us the spear was dyed,
Life's torrent rushing from His side,
To wash us in the precious flood
Where flowed the water and the blood.

The Royal Banners Forward Go (LSB 455:1-2).

In the name of + Jesus.

Rev. Jacob Ehrhard is pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church in New Haven, Missouri. He can be contacted at pastor.ehrhard@gmail.com.

Created: September 13th, 2016