I had a gentleman in my study recently who was being dragged down by some genuine guilt and some false accusations that were being heaped on him. After chatting for a few minutes about the details of the recent events that had brought about his spirits low, I began to point him to the cross, both through my words and literally. I shared the Gospel with him verbally and then pointed to the crucifix hanging on my wall. I then heard one of the most affirming lines I ever heard in my study. The gentleman looked up at the crucifix and said “Pastor, the first thing I thought of when I was feeling guilty was that cross on your wall. You have pointed so many times to it in the past that it is emblazoned in my mind’s eye.”
I do a lot of pointing to that cross when I am seeking to comfort people with pastoral care. Once this fellow had made my day with that comment I pointed him to a maquette that I have hanging on another wall of my study. It is a little cardboard rendition of the Eisenheim Altarpiece painted by Matthias Gruenwald. (The original hangs in the “Under the Linden” museum in Colmar, France.) In the painting John the Baptist is standing below and to the viewer’s right of the cross pointing to the Lamb of God. I owe this little gem of an insight on the painting to my mentor Dr. Norman Nagel. Gruenwald painted the index finger of John the Baptist about twice the size it ought to be as a testimony to the role of the Baptizer and all preachers of Christ. Our job is to point to Him so that He might increase as we decrease. With this gentleman it worked. The picture of Christ paying for his sins, taking his guilt away, stuck in his craw.
This is why we process a crucifix into the sanctuary at the beginning of every divine service in our parish. It is not because we like rich and historical art. It is to point all those gathered to the source of their forgiveness and to the reason for which we have gathered. That is also why I have four renditions of the crucified Christ in my study. As Pastor Wilken has taught us – we are rightly Christ-centered and cross focused.