The news (at least the news I pay attention to) has lately been fairly taken over by the Ray Rice scandal. The now former-Baltimore Raven was first seen back in February in an altercation with his now-wife at the Revel Casino; the police report said that Rice “attempted to cause bodily injury to (Palmer), specifically by striking her with his hand, rendering her unconscious.”1 The now infamous tape of that incident had not yet been released, and so we watched Rice and Palmer sit side-by-side on the news, she taking as much of the blame for getting knocked out of her shoes as he did, an easy reconciliation, and many of us just moved on.
We’ve since seen the video and watched as the NFL finally did what it should have done in the first place, a lifetime ban for Rice and for repeat domestic violence offenders. Rice has now apparently found Jesus and stopped drinking, and he expected another easy reconciliation, this time from us.
It’s that easy reconciliation I find troubling today. “In quarrels and contradictions and controversies, we seek easy reconciliation. In the middle of conflict, we imagine other possibilities. And we are kidding ourselves if we think that it is any different for our relationship with God.
We want simple reconciliation with God. When there are complications, we take God for granted. When we don’t get along with God, we wonder who else there could be or what else we could do. What else can give me what I need?”2 Oprah would say that we need to “find that spark within us” that will lead us to the promised land, but that’s all garbage.
The Feast of the Holy Cross, which we celebrate today, is the repudiation of all that. But “to put it bluntly, what’s the point of the cross? Well, that’s the whole point of Jesus’ words here in John’s Gospel. The point of the cross. Interpreting his death for us. Telling us what it means before it happens. Making sense of something that seems to make no sense–at all. Because we will want to look the other way and then we will not see. It is not unlike the raising of Lazarus. Jesus knew that we would totally not get what it would mean to bring Lazarus back from the dead. So instead of bringing him back and then telling us what it means, he tells us beforehand. Martha thinks that Lazarus will be raised–on the last day. Ah, no, Martha. That’s not what I mean. What I am about to do is not just about your future. It is everything about your present. I am the resurrection AND the life.
“Yet, we are really quite accomplished at putting a good spin on this, this cross thing. Because it’s not where we want to look. Not what we bargained for in this relationship. Way too complicated. If this is the way that God wants to be in relationship with us, well, there has to be something else. Other possibilities. Some other way.”3
But again, today we get Jesus telling us that there is no other way, no simple and easy plan for reconciliation, and so He tells us that He must be lifted up, lifted up high on the cross, lifted up so that not only can He draw all people to Himself, but so that we can see what the true cost of reconciliation really is.
Reconciliation, really putting things right with each other and with the Lord, isn’t easy, but like we talked about last week, the Lord has given us the means of reconciliation: forgiveness, the willingness to accept forgiveness, to trust, to love, to want the best for the other, and to sacrifice all for that end. We have a sign for all of that, the sign of the cross; the Lord grant us the grace to take up our crosses and follow Him.