by Jake Hall

published in Family Matters eNewsletter April 19, 2019

George Bennard wrote, “The Old Rugged Cross” around 1912. Bennard preached throughout the Midwest as traveling evangelist. One evening he left the service upset because of the behavior of the crowd. During that revival service, some youth interrupted Bennard during the sermon. Their behavior to the good news, as Bennard proclaimed it, led to his reflection upon the meaning of the cross.

On a hill far away stood an old rugged cross
The emblem of suff'ring and shame
And I love that old cross where the dearest and best
For a world of lost sinners was slain.

So I'll cherish the old rugged cross
Till my trophiesat last I lay down
I will cling to the old rugged cross
And exchange it some day for a crown.

Oh, that old rugged cross, so despised by the world
Has a wondrous attraction for me
For the dear Lamb of God left His glory above
To bear it to dark Calvary.

In the old rugged cross, stained with blood so divine
Such a wonderful beauty I see
For 'twas on that old cross Jesus suffered and died
To pardon and sanctify me.

To the old rugged cross I will ever be true
Its shame and reproach gladly bear
Then He'll call me someday to my home far away
Where His glory forever I'll share.

That refrain that catches me every time I sing it. The refrain doesn’t assume that we fully understand what the cross is and what the cross means.

It takes time.
It takes reflection.
It takes a degree of spiritual maturity to understand the depth of the cross.

For Bennard, one must first, “cherish the cross.” Only by seeing the cross through the lens of God’s loving faithfulness may we mature enough to, in Bennard’s words, lay our trophies down. What are these “trophies” of which Bennard sings? We are invited through the poetry of the song to imagine what needs to be laid down at the foot of the cross and left up to God.

What will you leave at the cross this year?

This week we will symbolically lay our burdens upon the Cross during tonight's Good Friday service. You will be invited to come forward to have a moment of reflection with the cross. You will be given a small piece of black cloth. As you reflect upon the cross, place the clothe upon the cross. Only after we lay our burdens down are we ready to anticipate the good news of Easter Morning.

Something special will happen to that very same cross on Easter morning. As a way of embodying the beauty of resurrection, we are asking you to bring a flower from your garden, or a florist, and to place it upon the cross. On Easter morning the cross, once shaded by death, shall bloom.

The Flower cross celebrates the way that God redeems our burdens and our brokenness. It proclaims, “Jesus is Alive!” by naming the hope of resurrection in beautiful bloom.

Allow the cross to center your celebration of this season of worship.