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Lifted on the Cross - Sermon on John 3:13-17

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Jesus forewarned of the cross during his lifetime. And it is at the center of the Christian life. And for every Christian we see it behind us and before us.  

 This sermon is quite a bit different from how it was written, therefore, please listen to the sermon rather than read it.  The sermon notes which are included for convenience.  

Sermon delivered at Lutheran Church of the Cross in Berkeley. 

September 18 - Holy Cross Sunday

"Lost and Rescued".  Text is from John 3:13-17

Click here for sermon audio 

Good morning to you my sisters and brothers, saints and sinners, disciples of Christ and children of God.

This short little passage from John comes from a discourse Jesus is having with a man by the name of Nicodemus, a Pharasee who wanted to learn more about who Jesus was and was seeking him out to understand what it was to be a follower of Christ. Jesus first explains how a person must be born again to be received into the kingdom of God which baffles and mystifies Nicodemus. And Jesus asks Nicodemus how someone such as him who is professing to be a teacher of the people of Israel, not already know these things.

We know what Jesus is teaching are new teachings for the people of Israel, and yet, he still responds to Nicodemus as if he is supposed to already know these things. We learn how Nicodemus comes to faith is part of the process of learning, part of the process of becoming a disciple of Christ. 

And therefore John leads us from the question and answers to the final revelation Jesus has to Nicodemus. That the son of man...Jesus... will be lifted up. And there is no question about what Jesus means here, in these words that John shares for us, because even though we know that Jesus is to be resurrected eventually, the lifted up here is clearly a reference to be lifted up onto the cross. 

The way of faith is to gaze upon the savior on the cross of the savior's demise. In order to receive salvation that we must first acknowledge the wooden cross on which the savior died. And so, the image of the cross is struck indelibly in the heart of every Christian, nay, in the heart of every soul in the world, no matter what they may believe or where they are on their path. 

John 3:16 is famous... For God so loved the world...  But I never want to read it without the subsequent passage: John 3:17. That God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world but in order that the world might be saved through him. That the death of Christ became the defeat of death by Christ. That God sent the son into our midst in order that we may be rescued from death and darkness and free to live with God everlasting. 


And that God wishes for all of God's people to be with God. God, everpowerful, everlasting, has shone on the entire earth, and many of us who have been able to acknowledge and receive God's wondrous gift of faith, can pour out his love into the world. 

I wished for us to celebrate this day, not only because the time after Pentecost comes out to one Sunday after Pentecost after another, one green colored liturgical day after another, and so we are able to have a little bit of difference. But I wished for us to celebrate this day, this Holy Cross Sunday, because of our unique name: Lutheran Church of the Cross, named that way in the 1960s, and this is an opportunity to look at where our heart is as a Christian church and as a Christian community. 

All of our works and all of our faith are centered around that symbol of our faith. We remember Christ fulfillment of his promise to us that on his dying and resurrection, God would never leave us again. That we recall this day of dedication to the Cross as a way to also thank God for our own holy catholic and apostolic church, the body of Christ in the world, as well as our own church buildings, and to remember the one cross of Christ in order that we may have a means to praise his great and wondrous gift to us on that cross. 

And within we mark the sign of the cross on our meal that we share at his table, consuming Christ's body and pouring out Christ's blood for all to drink that our sins may be washed clean. We see the cross in the waters of Christ's baptism, during which the symbol of Christ's sacrifice may be indelibly marked on our bodies, our foreheads and that we may be strengthened in community and fortified by his great love for us to do God's glorious work in the earthly kingdom. 

On this day, the celebration of Holy Cross Sunday, we share with one another the affirmation of baptism of two of God's children, Kay-K and Consuela, who were both given the mark of the cross at their baptism, and who are today voicing their own assent, accepting the holy waters of baptism in their own hearts. These two sisters of ours, beloved children of God, were each given that rite at their births, the promises of the church to cloak them, protect them and the promises of their community to keep them healthy and whole in the lap of God. Today, they each affirm that baptism, internalizing it and making the decision to become fully fledged disciples of Christ, following his way and looking forward to the glorious kingdom even as the cross always looms over them from behind and ahead. To join with us, Christians, who choose to pick up our own crosses and carrying them forward into the promise of the future. 

The good news is that we welcome them into our community, daughters of God and followers of Christ, vessels of the holy spirit, doers of justice, mercy and God's will, inheritors of God's kingdom, and proclaimers of good news that God's holy word lives in the world and frees us to have eternal life. 


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