A myHT Fortress

Thursday, October 8, 2009

We Preach Christ Crucified

St. John's, Chicago is blessed to have this beautiful crucifix. I haven't done any digging around, to find out when it was bought or given to the congregation, or by whom, but I love it!

Current practice has been to have it on the altar reredos during Lent. I'm sad to see it out so rarely, especially since the crucifix is such a strong part of our Lutheran heritage. The original Lutheran practice held that the bigger the crucifix, the better, since it boldly proclaimed to people God's love and mercy through Christ's redeeming sacrifice. (In some parts of Germany, it was said you could tell the Lutheran churches from the Roman Catholic ones by the crucifixes -- the Lutheran churches had larger crucifixes!)

Some time in the 20th century, though, a generation of Lutheran pastors was taught a misunderstanding that an empty cross was preferred. In all likelihood it was to look more like Protestant neighbors -- a theme that picked up steam after the World Wars, for some reason.

Now, more and more of our parishes are returning to their roots. (See St. Paul's Lutheran in Hamel, Illinois on Pastor Weedon's blog.) We are remembering the joy of seeing Jesus winning His victory on the cross and redeeming us. We are realizing how completely appropriate it is for an image of Jesus' once-and-for-all sacrifice for our forgiveness and salvation to be near or above the altar where He delivers that forgiveness and salvation.

How beautiful to behold the mercy of God in its purest form: Jesus giving up His life and shedding His blood for us. "We preach Christ crucified" (1 Corinthians 1:23 ESV.) There before your very eyes is the Lord God in the flesh, giving His very body and blood for you!

Thank you, Lord, for blessing St. John's with such a beautiful image to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus!


IggyAntiochus said...

My understanding is that the change to the empty cross movement had to do with the teaching of the unbloody sacrifice.

When the pastor faced the altar (all pastors did back then) and repeated the Words of Institution in front of the crucifix, they thought it was symbolic of the unbloody sacrifice. An empty cross would not leave that impression.

That being said, like many liturgical things, a little catechesis would go a long ways around this perception, but back then they chose to avoid the practice instead.

Most Lutherans of this era did not cross themselves, share the peace, stand for a trinitarian verse, or have a crucifix.

Good catechesis, is reversing this trend, to which I say a very loud AMEN!

IggyAntiochus said...

I would also add another practice that has changed for the better: communion was offered either once a month or four times a year during this era. Weekly communion was seen as something "those Catholics" did.

Again, good catechesis has lead to positive change. Most congregations celebrate the Eucharist either twice a month or even weekly.

And again I say, AMEN!