Uncovenanted, full and free, the love of God amazes me—
That love which once upon the Cross nailed the dark record of my loss.
The record of my sinful past, the stain that o’er my soul was cast,
Is wiped away, nor can be seen—’tis gone as though it ne’er had been.
Amazing mercy, boundless grace, no longer need I hide my face;
‘Tis cancelled all, and I am free, my sins were cleansed on Calvary.
By Bishop Robert Hayes Jr.
In this age of heightened security and safety measures, I marvel at the ways technology is used to confirm our identities.
When you travel beyond the borders of this country, you must have a passport, which informs customs agents about you, including where you’re going and where you’ve been. Coded on a thin black strip of that travel document is your age, your gender, your race, your height, your place of birth—the vital information necessary to confirm that you are who you say you are.
In other settings, more sophisticated equipment distinguishes fingerprints in a matter of seconds. Even more astounding are retina scanning and iris recognition. These newest technologies enable unmistakable, instant identification of an individual because every person’s eyes are unique. Utterly amazing!
As impressive as these are, there is yet another way our identity is confirmed, and it has nothing to do with computers and biometrics.
There is a symbol so universally known that it immediately designates identity wherever we may be in the world. The Cross proclaims our citizenship in God’s Kingdom. Worn on clothing lapels and around our necks, the Cross identifies our allegiance as followers of Jesus Christ. It proclaims to all that we believe in both the man and his message, and that we are committed to fostering his theme of love for one another.
A few years ago, I noticed a sign on property at the edge of Enid. The sign announced the construction of a new Korean church. In my travels as bishop, I frequently passed the site, and I wondered what type of church that would become. Would their theology or creeds be different from mine? Who or what would they worship in the new edifice?
Then one day as I passed by, I saw workmen erecting a Cross at the front of the building. These Korean Americans were Christians! In an instant, I knew they believe as I do, and an immediate bond connected us.
That’s what the Cross does. It breaks down barriers of creed and race; it builds bridges of love and hope. Most of all, it grafts us to the One who died upon the Cross for us.
As a follower of Christ, I am asked to be a servant like him, and not to expect to be served. I am asked to give up all claim on myself, to lose myself for his sake and for others. Further, I am called to be willing to give up personal advantage in order to bear witness to the faith I hold so dear.
Because Jesus willingly took upon himself the heavy Cross of my sins, then I, too, must be willing to pick up my own Cross and follow him.
As you journey to Calvary during this Lenten season, what Cross have you willingly taken upon yourself? What sacrifices have you made that demonstrate your resolve to expose the inner recesses of your soul to the bright light of God’s scrutiny? Have you denied yourself something meaningful, as a reminder that our Lord gave himself for God’s world?
The word Lent comes from a root word meaning "spring." The late Rev. Robert MacAskill wrote: "Spring does not start with bursting seeds and buds. Seeds and buds are the result of spring. Spring starts with a new adjustment between the earth and the heavens. The month of April would come in vain unless the yearly adjustment between earth and heaven took place. Our human personalities are planted with innumerable hidden, buried possibilities. The Gospel of John, using another figure of speech, speaks of ‘the Light, which lightens every person that comes into the world.’ When a person’s life comes into the right adjustment with the Source of Light and Life—God—then possibilities become realities. Lent can be springtime for your soul if you make the readjustment of your life with God."
I began by considering the ways the world identifies us. I close with this thought: Will you look the same and be the same at the end of this Lenten journey, or will the experience of these 40 days sprout into a new identity for you? For Christ’s sake, I hope so!