Great Stuff — Creches and Crucifixes

Another great article found over on LetItStet.com:

 

crucifix1Crucifixes can scare Lutherans.

Even good Lutherans.

The kinds of Lutherans who like to sing hymns with their families on Christmas Eve and who write checks each Sunday and who love their pastor right down to his white socks and black shoes.

Oops.

That’s their seminarian.

Still, we stiffen up a little when we see a crucifix. It’s uncomfortable.

It’s not the Jesus we like. We like the Good Shepherd Jesus, the one surrounded by wandering sheep. Or the smiling Jesus, holding little children in His arms. Or the Jesus robed in white, exiting from His three-day rest in the tomb.

The Jesus on the cross is harder to stomach.

He’s weak. His arms are pulled taught. His knees are buckled. His rib cage is showing. His head lolls.

This isn’t the Jesus we’re accustomed to: this seemingly defenseless Jesus.

Heck, we’d take the Jesus of table-flipping temple fame over this.

It’s why we say we like the empty cross instead of the full one: because that’s the Jesus we know. The Jesus who is risen, triumphant, victorious. The Jesus who settled the matters of sin, death and the devil once and for all.

But Advent and Christmas teach us something else.

We keep our baby Jesuses in our manger scenes this time of year, don’t we?

We leave Him comfortably cradled in straw, sandwiched between Mary and Joseph, right?

We do that because it reminds us that He became incarnate, that He became as one of us, that He spit up and had diaper blow-outs and wriggled out of His blanket and then cried because He was cold.

We don’t leave the manger empty because He is no longer a child. We don’t take Him out of the creche because His childlike weakness makes us uncomfortable.

No, we leave Him there because He teaches us something about Himself: that He is man, that He has experienced all that we have, that He is humble, that He is not above suffering on our behalf.

So, too, we don’t need to fear the crucifix. We know that Jesus is no longer hanging between thieves, but we can, without fear, see Him on the cross because it reminds us that He hung in agony for us, that He bled and felt pain and cried out so that we would not have to.

It reminds us that the way in which He loved this world was to die for us.

He is no longer dead. He lives. He is no longer in the manger. He is all grown up.

But just as we do not need to leave the manger empty, we don’t have to leave the cross empty either. They are both good and helpful visual reminders of our Lord — born, burped, writhing and risen — all for us.

And for the faithful, that’s not scary at all.

About Norm Fisher

Norm was raised in the UCC in Connecticut, and like many fell away from the church after high school. With this background he saw it primarily as a service organization. On the miracle of his first child he came back to the church. On moving to Texas a few years later he found a home in Lutheranism when he was invited to a confessional church a half-hour away by our new neighbors.

He is one of those people who found a like mind in computers while in Middle School and has been programming ever since. He's responsible for many websites, including the Book of Concord, LCMSsermons.com, and several other sites.

He has served the church in various positions, including financial secretary, sunday school teacher, elder, PTF board member, and choir member.

More of his work can be found at KNFA.net.

Comments

Great Stuff — Creches and Crucifixes — 5 Comments

  1. Hmmm,
    Just the opposite I thought. Evangelicals dislike the crucifix. We Lutherans love the crucifix for all the reasons stated.
    Evangelicals say, “Jesus is off of the cross.” We agree, but He had to hang on it.
    My favorite pastoral “neck cross” is a crucifix.

    As for the Church, got a few around. But I do want to purchase a nice one for processions.

    In reality, I think some, especially older thought, “I don’t need a crucifix, that is a Catholic thing.” Like kneelers, ashes on Ash Wed., and crossing oneself.

  2. Pastor David L. Prentice Jr. :Hmmm,Just the opposite I thought. Evangelicals dislike the crucifix. We Lutherans love the crucifix for all the reasons stated.Evangelicals say, “Jesus is off of the cross.” We agree, but He had to hang on it.My favorite pastoral “neck cross” is a crucifix.
    As for the Church, got a few around. But I do want to purchase a nice one for processions.
    In reality, I think some, especially older thought, “I don’t need a crucifix, that is a Catholic thing.” Like kneelers, ashes on Ash Wed., and crossing oneself.

    I refer to it as the 3 C’s(Chanting, Chausables, & Crucifixes).

    Some of our older members raised in the “bronze age” are the main ones who complain that we are becoming “too catholic”, which is unfortunate because more & more of the younger Lutherans recognize that we are indeed a part of the “catholic” faith.

  3. @A Layman #2
    Dear “A LAymen”,
    I think their problem was there good understanding of one aspect of Lutheranism that let them to “perhaps” go too far.
    My Dad was a prime example, an old fashioned Lutheran that came from a Baptist-ish family. He became staunch against anything that smelled of works-righteousness.

    Things like:
    01) We don’t kneel to make points with God, our prayers are just as good standing or sitting.
    02) Crossing oneself, “what, then we have to do a rosary?”
    03) Ashes? A few more points to get out of purgatory?
    04) No Mary talk, “What, I have to bow and pray to her?”

    I think it is really about a good understanding of justification. Perhaps liturgics and history fell off a bit.

  4. @A Layman #2
    Dear “A”,
    Thinking about it.
    Applaud the older ones who think we are becoming “too catholic”, because in their mind, they have perhaps a greater understanding of Roman Catholic and the “bad” stuff that comes along with it (works righteousness, etc.) It gives you some fun, historical lessons, etc.

    As for the young, smells and bells, great that they think it is cool.

  5. “I think it is really about a good understanding of justification.”

    Dynamically, I think the example given is really about being against something, to the point where that heavily cathected attitude of opposition is almost — sorry to say — all-consuming and all-defining. You don’t care so much that the Orioles win the pennant, say, as that the Yankees fall hard on their arses. That’s what baseball’s all about.

    To elaborate disgust against purgatory, Roman Catholic beads, and heavens! … crucifixes; kneeling and bowing (to the Redeemer-King TRULY present in our worship) and, of course, all that “Mary talk” does NOT convincingly demonstrate an individual’s grasp on the truths of justification by faith, or the fruit which arises from that genuine faith.

    “These people honor Me with their lips, but their hearts are far from Me.” Our Lord was speaking of our spiritual being, here; nonetheless, it is a medical fact that the heart, as organ of circulation, perfuses joints, ligaments and knees … to bend and to kneel. If “good” Lutherans adamantly insist on standing in the Lord’s Presence, as some invented sign of their fidelity, then they can be rest assured that they will certainly bend the knee with all else of Creation, come the Day of the Lord. “All else” includes the thankful leper, who taught us “healthy” folk a thing or two about meet and salutary worship. Indeed, much of Scripture and a good number of Confessional hymns and portions of Luther’s Catechisms, speak to bodily actions exceeding simple lip-talk, in the Presence of God. Actions can speak and witness to a faith in the God Who is Near, Who offers us His justification and the forgiveness of sins, life and salvation. We are to fear and love God, totally. Note the priority, one established by blessed Martin Luther. Sadly, autonomous and independently-minded Americans don’t know how to act, in the vicinity of kings. And true-red-conservative Lutherans, know and show little as to how to act, in the presence of Jesus Christ … their only King.

    But if the Presence isn’t real but a “nothing-there-that-I-can-see-or-swaller,-Mabel” blank space, if the mysteries of God can be ignored fully, well, then by all means continue to sprawl in the pews while the Pastor reads the Lessons; or take a constitutional nap during the sermon. I get your message. But no need to grunt, or even snore. Your body-language says it best.

    Your (unworthy) servant,
    Herr Doktor
    http://thessponline.blogspot.com/

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