03172019 Lent 2 Emmanuel Lutheran Export PA

“In the Cross of Christ I Glory”

03172019 Lent 2 Emmanuel Lutheran Export PA

March 17, 2019
“In the Cross of Christ I Glory”
Sermon Audio

Recently as a sermon illustration, a pastor wanted to put crosses on the floor of his sanctuary and allow the people to lay on them to show their ‘submission’ to the Cross of Christ.  Powerful as the illustration was, the ‘Cross of Christ’ in our hymn we consider this morning has more power, not with laying on the ‘Cross’, but with connecting with what the ‘Cross’ actually means for us and for the salvation of all of mankind.  Let’s sing the first stanza of “In the Cross of Christ I Glory” and see how our lives connect to the gift we receive from our Savior on the ‘Cross of Christ’.

1 In the cross of Christ I glory, tow'ring o'er the wrecks of time.  All the light of sacred story gathers round its head sublime.

When researching this hymn, the first picture I found for John Bowring, the author of this hymn is of a very ‘dower looking’ individual.  Yet, what is amazing is that he like many hymn authors are poets. The imagery of language they use, is poignant, poetic and has a powerful purpose to convey their faith.  

Bowring begins simply ‘In the Cross of Christ I glory’ but then unleashes his masterful pen like a painter pointing out that the ‘Cross of Christ’ is ‘tow’ring o’er the wrecks of time’ in his and our lives.  For it is our personal connection to the ‘Cross of Christ’ and the gift of salvation He offers us, where we should live in the shadow of Jesus Christ, and His ‘Cross’, because ‘All the light’ that radiates from Jesus Christ overcomes us and our lives.  And we like cordage in rope are intertwined and brought into the grace offered us and all mankind on the ‘Cross of Christ’ that only He can provide us.  So because of God’s grace, Jesus Christ therefore ‘gathers’ us ‘round its head sublime’.  And in gathering us we then can lay claim to the ‘Glory’ our Savior offers us when we call upon His name as our Gospel this morning reminds us.  Let’s join in singing the second and third stanzas of “In the Cross of Christ I Glory” and see how we are offered ‘peace and joy’ through the ‘radiance’ of our Savior.

2 When the woes of life o'ertake me, hopes deceive, and fears annoy, never shall the cross forsake me; lo, it glows with peace and joy.
3 When the sun of bliss is beaming light and love upon my way, from the cross the radiance streaming adds more luster to the day.

Hymns clearly can convey feelings from how the notes are played as well as by the tempo of the tune and our hymn today is no different.  In a style reminiscent of his Scottish ancestry, Ithamar Conkey’s tune like a brogue accent is deep and wide and this is a perfect pairing with the words of Bowring.  It is clear that all of us have experienced, ‘woes of life’ and when these occur, ‘the woes of life o’ertake me, hopes deceive, and fears annoy’ we can be shaken to our very core with what we encounter and experience in our daily lives.  Whether diagnosis of disease in our family, ourselves or even within our community, yet, there is one thing that we need to remember, the promise our hymn lays claim to for all of mankind.  ‘Never shall the cross forsake me’, because Jesus Christ died on the Cross for us and for all of mankind.  When we look to the ‘Cross of Christ’, no matter if it is wood, metal or paper, hangs around our necks or in a sanctuary, ‘it glows with peace and joy’.  This is the promise Jesus Christ makes us from the Cross and we need to lay claim to His promise each and every day of our lives.

For like the sunshine that streams through the clouds after a rainstorm or after an extended period of stormy weather, it is a breath of fresh air for us.  ‘When the sun of bliss is beaming’ God is trying to remind us of His promise to and for us of the clear demonstration of His ‘love upon my way’.  And this comes clearly through and ‘from the cross the radiance streaming’ to lighten our day, point to the grace God offers us through His Word, in His Sacraments and to overcome the darkness of our lives because of the ‘Cross of Christ’.  So ultimately the ‘Cross of Christ’ and the salvation of our souls that God fulfilled through Jesus Christ for us, will ‘add(s) luster to our day’ and reorient our muscle of faith as an active participating joy to behold and share with one another as we sing this beautiful hymn.  Let’s join together our voices with the last stanza of “In the Cross of Christ I Glory”.

4 Bane and blessing, pain and pleasure, by the cross are sanctified; peace is there that knows no measure, joys that through all time abide.

The comparisons made in this last stanza symbolizes and connects so well with the truth Christians see and believe in the gift of grace offered us by Jesus Christ on the Cross.  If it were not for Jesus on the ‘Cross’, with His ‘pain’ and ‘bane’ or ‘great distress’ there would be no ‘Glory’, no ‘blessing’ and ultimately we would not be given the ‘pleasure’ we will be able to experience in heaven.  But it is ‘by the cross’ and Jesus sacrifice on it that we ‘are sanctified’, we are made holy, we are given the gift from God ‘that knows no measure’.  For it is God’s gift to us of salvation that we ultimately receive ‘joys through all time abide’.  And in our receipt from God of these gifts, that we want others to have this gift of grace and mercy from Jesus Christ as well.

This is why hymns are so powerful, they speak a language that words combined with music convey a most powerful message.  And our hymn today is no different, simply that the Cross where Jesus Christ was sacrificed was not only for a select few, but for all of mankind.  And this is the promise we hear as we journey through Lent to Calvary, where we hear and heed the promises that God proclaimed as we sing loudly of the grace. mercy and love offered with the words and in the tune of “In the Cross of Christ I Glory”.  AMEN.