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Monday, September 13, 2010

The Queen and The Cross

The Exaltation of the Holy and Life-Giving Cross
This is from my sermon on Sun., Sept. 12, 2010.

Epistle: Phil. 2:5-11
Psalm 34
Gospel: John 12:31-36

As remembered the 9/11 attacks yesterday, I was put in mind of the story of St. Helen and the discovery and lifting up of the Cross.

If anyone had brought to Church a piece of the steel from Ground Zero, we likely would have a sense of reverent awe about it.
* We would wonder about where in the Towers it had been.
* We might ask if any of the survivors would have somehow touched it.
* We might have asked if any of the victims had been killed by it.

This shard of metal would hold a great symbolic meaning to us because it would have brought us emotionally to the place of such a great tragedy.

St. Helen's discovery of the Cross may have been a very similar experience. She was the Christian mother of Emperor Constantine, a pagan at the time. (Constantine was converted and baptized very late in his life. The prayers of a mother for her son sometimes last a lifetime.)

St. Helen would have been familiar with, dismayed by, and prayed about the persecutions of the Church in the late 3rd and early 4th centuries. She would have been influential in Constantine's Edict of Toleration, which decriminalized Christianity in the Roman Empire. Like many Christians of the time, she finally had the freedom to practice her faith openly, travel freely to Christian meetings, and to make a pilgrimage to Jersalem.

And, like many millions of Christians since Helen, she wanted to walk where Jesus walked, she wanted to see if somehow His voice still echoed in the walls of Jerusalem, if His image remained in the minds of the people of Palestine.

In a unique and profound way, God gave Helen the desire of her heart, to feel the wood on which He died, to be brought emotionally and spiritually in the place of such a great tragedy.

Jesus said: "If I be lifted up from the earth, I will draw all men unto me."

Helen had a memorable encounter with God.

Have you had a memorable encounter with God?

I know we are supposed to encounter God in our daily lives, but I made a list of some encounters I've had with God that stand out to me:
1) Koinonia, which was a retreat of sorts that I was involved with in high school, similar to Cursillo or the Emmaus Walk. They made a deep impact on my soul.
2) In high school and after I moved back home I was involved in a Tuesday night prayer and praise meeting. Karen and I went after we were married. In those quiet prayerful moments, we shared the presence of God with some very Godly men and women.
3) I experienced a miraculous healing of a badly sprained ankle. While loading my car at college to go home for summer break, I fell down a flight of stairs and sprained my right ankle. I went to the campus clinic, took some Tylenol, and went to my exams on crutches. That Sunday, I walked into a Church I was visiting on my crutches. After the service, some people I didn't know and have never seen again came to me and said they felt led to pray for my healing. My ankle was instantly healed. I walked out of Church carrying my crutches.
4) At our wedding reception, I had an inspiration to read the latter half of Proverbs 31 aloud to Karen in front of all the reception attenders. It seemed to seal the meaning of our vows.
5) On a number of occasions, Karen and I have taken "days of prayer" before we faced a major decision. Those were definite encounters with God.
6) In January 2004, I had an accident on the ice that nearly killed me. It totalled the car and I ended up in a creek bed 300 feet off the road. After the impact of the car hitting the tree on the driver's side door, I crawled out the passenger's side door and all I could say was "Thank you Lord" over and over again. After going to a nearby house to call for help, the Lord seemed to speak to my heart saying, "It's time for you to get serious about your faith and doctrine."

Have you had a memorable encounter with God?

Some people may wonder about St. Helen's encounter with God in  the finding of the Cross, just like they may question the encounters with God I've had in my own life. But the truth of the Gospel remains:

"If I be lifted up from the earth, I will draw all men unto me."

Helen's enounter with God lifted the Cross of Christ and has drawn thousands of people to Him since.

My hope is that in some small way, my enounters with God will at least draw someone to Him as well.