In the shadow of the cross

Published 10:00 pm Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Wednesday of last week marked the beginning of Lent for many within the Christian community. Baptists of my ilk don’t make much of Lent. We are more into what I call “The Hallmark Year” (Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, etc.) than The Church Year. We do of course observe Christmas and Easter.

But when we hear Lent, which sounds a lot like lint, we are more apt to think of the fuzz balls we brush off our clothing than we are of a religious observance. Having said that, I’m in no way intending to demean the Lenten season or belittle those who observe it. I’m simply calling attention to the diversity that exists within our various denominational traditions.

Observe Lent or not, with Easter just weeks away we are inclined to turn our thoughts toward the Cross.  Last year while serving as interim pastor of the Grace Lower Stone Reformed Church, I preached a sermon based on the Gospel of Mark entitled “In the Shadow of the Cross” as part of a Lenten series in which Grace Church was a participant. It traced the deepening shadow of the cross as it develops in Mark’s Gospel.

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I began by citing Holman Hunt’s painting, “The Shadow of Death.” It depicts Jesus in the carpenter’s shop in Nazareth. It is nearing the close of the day, and the last rays of sunlight are beaming in through the open door. As Jesus raises Himself from His stooped position at the carpenter’s bench He stretches out His arms. As He does the setting sun casts His shadow on the wall behind Him, and His shadow is in the form of a cross. It is the artist’s way of reminding us that the cross cast its shadow over the life of Jesus right from the start of His ministry.

As I ponder the Cross of Jesus, I think about my relationship to it. And as I do a stanza from Elizabeth Clephanes’s hymn, “Beneath the Cross of Jesus,” comes to mind. It is the third and last stanza and it goes like this: “I take,  O Cross, thy shadow For my abiding place; I ask no other sunshine than The sunshine of His face; Content to let the world go by, To know no gain or loss, My sinful self my only shame, My glory all the cross.”

I want to live my life like that, in the shadow of the cross.  I’m trying, how about you?

By Darryl Maxwell, retired Baptist Pastor