Cross-examining the Cross-word 

-an article for the March 2002 Deep Cove Crier

Some people love cross-word puzzles.  Others get cross at the mention of them.  One of the puzzles that fascinates me is how often the cross is planted at the crossroads of everyday conversation.  Everywhere I look, I find cross-words.  Lawyers cross-examine their witnesses.  Children sit cross-legged in gym classes.  Thieves double-cross each other at a moment’s notice.  Referees penalize hockey players for ‘cross-checking each other.’  Political and military leaders warn their enemies against ‘crossing the line’.  Since September 11th, I have crossed the border five different times.  Courageous soldiers are awarded with the Victoria Cross.

Families going through great turmoil are described as bearing their cross.  The term ‘excruciating’ comes directly from the Latin term for cross (crucis or crux).  The crux of Easter which we are celebrating on March 31st is the mystery of the cross, the mystery of how Life double-crossed Death, and brought good out of evil.  There was no more excruciating way to die than in the unspeakable agony of the Good Friday cross.

Good Friday was the most evil day in human history.  Yet the Good Friday cross functioned like a cosmic vacuum cleaner sucking all the evil, sickness, pain, and hatred into itself and then imploding it into oblivion.  Pontius Pilate the Roman Governor in Israel cross-examined Jesus and could find no fault in him.  Pilate forced Jesus to carry his own cross to the Calvary hill.  After shoving eight-inch spikes into Jesus’ wrists and ankles, Pilate ordered the nailing of a sign at the top of Jesus’ cross which said ‘King of the Jews’.

Jesus wasn’t cross at Judas who betrayed him with a kiss.  He wasn’t cross at Peter who denied him three times.  He wasn’t cross at his other disciples who all ran for their lives.  He wasn’t even cross at the Roman soldiers who took great delight in torturing and humiliating him before his final execution.  Instead Jesus cried out from the cross: "Father, forgive them for they know not what they are doing".  The heart of the Cross is forgiveness, forgiving the unthinkable, forgiving the unforgivable.

Our government leaders, our business leaders, and our labour leaders all struggle daily with making crucial decisions.  The term ‘crucial’ is another cross-word term, coming from the French word’ cruciale’ for ‘cross’.  Medical doctors describe the cross-shaped anatomy of the knee as the crucial ligaments of the knee joint.  Everywhere we look in life, we come across the Cross.  Life at the core of its being is cruciform, cross-shaped in its genetic structure, its social structure, its scientific structure.  Dr. E. Stanley Jones  taught that our genes, our biochemistry, our very DNA are designed by our Creator to work on the basis of the Cross, on the basis of sacrificial love.  The heart of the cross is laying down one’s life in servant love for others.  Slowly but surely, people are beginning to discover that Life either goes the way of the Cross, or the way of self-destruction.

You may have heard how the band on the sinking ship Titanic played ‘Nearer My God to Thee..Even though it be a Cross’.  Dr. ES Jones knew an author on the Titanic who plunged into the icy sea with a precious manuscript that he had been writing for years.  He saw a child in the water –the manuscript or the child?  He dropped the manuscript and swam to the child.  It was dead.  He found another child, alive, held it up, tried to get into a lifeboat, but the boat was too full.  He grasped a nail on the side of the lifeboat.  It pierced his hand, and there he hung by that nail, saving the little child.  That author sacrificed his precious manuscript to go the way of the cross.  His nail-scarred hand brought life to a precious little one.

Only the servant leadership of the Cross has the authority to truly transform our hurting world.  We are at a crossroads in our modern culture.  My cross-word prayer for those reading this article is that we may choose this Easter to carry our crosses, like Jesus, as servant leaders in a broken world.

The Reverend Ed Hird, Rector, St. Simon’s Anglican Church

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