God's promise through the cross
Easter time is the season of central importance to Christians for it commemorates the drama that is at the heart of the Christian faith and without which the Christian church would not exist at all. That drama was the final stage of God's plan to save people from ultimate destruction, when he sent His only Son Jesus to die on a cross and then three days later to rise again for us. It is the event which means that we are not simply a movement but a living faith because we have a living Saviour who has won for us on the cross a way back to God from the separation that human sin, our sin, has caused.
A few years ago I was talking to my young nephew about the Easter story and an open air play that we were doing of those events. He said "That's not very sensible - if you want people to believe in Jesus show them something happy not that horrible cross!" Well the answer is that to show the cross is to show something happy in a way because of what it meant. I invite you to read the following story and you may understand what I mean.
I INVITE YOU INTO MY PRESENCE (adapted from Max Lucadoh's book - "He chose the nails")
There I was standing in front of Buckingham Palace
Standing there on the pavement peering through the railings, across the parade ground at the palace of the Queen.
There I was in fine form - my hair done specially, my best outfit on, even my shoes shined up for the occasion. And then I turned towards the entrance - my pace brisk, my stride sure, a jaunty aspect about my step. Quite right too for I had come to meet the Queen!!
You see I had a few matters I wanted to discuss with her.
First there was the matter of the enormous road sign they had just erected outside my house. It totally ruined the view. Couldn't she give orders to have it moved for me?
Then there was the issue of world peace. I am in favour of it so couldn't she use her influence to get it going. After all she knows the right people!
And lastly , university tuition fees - could she give Tony Blair a ring and ask him to lighten up on them particularly at my nephew's university?
All worthy issues - correct? Wouldn't take more than a few minutes. Beside I brought her some of my grannies home made biscuits that she could share with the Royal consort and the royal Corgies. So with bag in hand and a smile on my face I stepped up to the gate and announced to the guard
"I'd like to see the Queen please."
He asked for my name which I gave and he looked on his list, and then said
"There is have no record of your appointment"
"Oh - You have to have an appointment?" I said
"Well how do I get one"
"Through her majesty's private secretary's office"
"Oh right. Could you give me their phone number."
"No its restricted"
"Then how can I get in?"
"It's better to wait 'til they call you
"But they don't know me!"
The guard shrugged "Then they probably won't call"
And so I sighed and turned away and began my journey home. My questions unanswered, my needs unmet.
And I was so close!!
Had the Queen just stepped out onto her balcony I would have waved and I'm sure she'd have waved back. I was only yards from her front door… but it might as well have been a thousand miles. We two, the Queen and I were separated by some railings and a sentry.
But then there was also the problem of the secret police officers. Had I somehow managed to slip in they would have stopped me; and then there was the staff - they'd have done the same . There were just too many barriers.
And there were invisible barriers too. Barriers of time (the Queen was too busy). Barriers of status (I'm just not important enough and barriers of protocol (You have to go through the proper channels)
So I left the Palace. I did not have access to the Queen. My chat with the Queen just wasn't going to happen. I'd have to take my problems about world peace and the road sign and the tuition fees away with me.
But suppose she were to take the initiative. Suppose she spotted me out there on the pavement and took pity on me and said to her Private secretary
"See that person with the bag of biscuits - go and tell her I'd like to talk to her a minute."
If she gave such a command then everything would be different.
The private secretary's office would call the head of palace security. The head of security would call the guard and the guard would call my name out and say
"Guess what - I can't explain it but the door to the Queen's presence is wide open for you."
Now I'd stop and turn and straighten my shoulders and enter the same door where only moments earlier I was denied access.
The guard is the same. The gates are the same. The security personnel are the same. BUT the situation is not the same.
Now I can go where I could not go. The door is open, my name has been called and I can go in.
And what's more I am not the same either. I feel special - chosen. WHY? Because the one who wears the crown, the sovereign saw me down there and made it possible, wanted me, to come right in.
That's what Jesus was doing on the cross -he was winning for us a way into where we have no right to be without his cross - heaven itself and the presence of God.
And that's something to celebrate.