Every morning since Ash Wednesday, I’ve driven up to the church and looked at the cross sitting in the front yard.
Some mornings, I’ve stopped to post the obligatory “draped cross” image to Instagram.
Most mornings I’ve just glanced at our cross as I’ve driven by to make sure it doesn’t need fixing – or, more precisely, to make sure the drape on our cross doesn’t need fixing.
We drape our cross with a purple cloth for Lent, a black cloth for Good Friday and then a white cloth for Easter and the days following.
We used to hold the cloths in place with staples, but they didn’t work very well. Now we use rubber bands.
The weather and the birds aren’t always kind to our cloths. Right now the cloths are wet and stained. They’ve been through quite an ordeal this year.
They’ve remained bravely in place as they’ve been pelted by hail. They’ve stayed nobly fixed through high winds and heavy rain. They’ve endured the cold mornings of February and the hot afternoon rays of the April sun.
And the cloths have refused to be deterred even when stained by the wind-borne spatterings of Georgia red clay.
Truth be told, the cross itself has seen better days, too. The ends of the horizontal cross piece are splintered and frayed. They’ve become dangerous little razors for the stretched rubber bands that now hold the cloths in place.
I consider it a real privilege to tend to the cross. There’s something sacred about draping a cross in purple to mark the days of Lent. And, there’s something holy about placing a white drape where a black drape once stood.
My wife and I stopped to do just that on our way to an Easter sunrise service this year.
It was kind of cool to imagine the first rays of Easter dawn falling on the carefully arranged white cloth that had only seen the dim glow of Julie’s iPhone before.
Our white-draped cross remains for only a few more days, though. We’ve decided that three weeks after Easter is long enough.
So when my current sermon series moves on from the post-resurrection appearances of Jesus, our cross will go back to the shed from which it came. Then we’ll take inventory to determine if our cloths can be saved or if we should just throw them away and buy new ones next year.
It turns out the world isn’t an easy place for a cross. That’s why I’m proud of the one that stands in our church yard, offering an important opportunity to reflect on what it represents as it stands there before we put it away for another year.
Our cross – once an instrument of torture – stands proudly in defiance of those who would ridicule the peaceful meekness of the man it failed to kill.
Our cross – once an emblem of state power – stands as an almost mocking reminder that the powers of this world will not have the last word.
Our cross – once a shameful implement of cruelty, humiliation and death – is now repurposed to stand as an emblem of Christian hospitality, love and life.
Our cross – once a tool to be feared – is now a beacon of hope and healing wherever it is found.
Our cross still stands on the front yard of our church because God’s peace is stronger than war, because God’s love is stronger than hatred, because God’s grace is stronger than exclusion, because God’s hope is stronger than fear, and because God’s life is stronger than death.
Our cross stands under the steeple through wind and rain and hail, in cold and heat. It’s littered with failed staples, snapped rubber bands and Georgia red clay because no matter what the world throws at our cross, God’s redemption, God’s restoration and God’s resurrection are real.
As I took our cross down last Sunday, I recognized that while it may be a little worse for wear, its imperfections remind me of my own. I was reminded that even as I work to fix our cross, our cross is fixing me.
Of course, there’s only one way the cross fixes us and there’s only one way Christ’s cross becomes our cross. We’ll have to do what Jesus said, take it up and follow him (Matthew 16:24-26).
Matt Sapp is pastor of Central Baptist Church in Newnan, Georgia.