GSFA Devotional: Bread for Our Journey
Lenten Devotion (1)
Ash Wednesday, 2 March 2022
PRAYING AT THE FOOT OF THE CROSS
“For our sake, God made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:21)
Readings: Psalm 32, Genesis 32:22-31, Luke 12: 13-21
“The journey of Lent begins with a cross of ashes on the forehead and ends at the foot of the empty tomb – a movement from brokenness before God to new life in God.” (Archbishop Justin Badi in his Lenten message to the GSFA family in www.thegsfa.org).
I believe each one of us can experience that journey afresh by setting aside intentional time this Lent to pray with our gaze lovingly fixed on Christ on the Cross. There is a power the world needs to know which is the power of God flowing through lives that are broken by their own consciousness of sin in their hearts, but which are set free and daily empowered by the love of Christ to live well in a fallen world.
The pain of the world, the reality of death and the uncertainty of life has been made acute by the long struggle with the COVID-19 pandemic and by the war that has broken out in Ukraine just this past week. That is the context in which Christians across the world are called to be faithful witnesses of Jesus Christ. So now like never before we need to personally know the transforming love of Christ and the living hope we have in Him. And there is no place to experience these powerful realities than at the foot of the Cross.
As we gather at the foot of the Cross and behold our Lord, there are three dimensions that shape our posture.
Firstly, REMEMBER what put Christ on the Cross. Several of our churches retain the practice of the pastor imposing ashes in the shape of a cross on the forehead of the members and saying the words: “Remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” In Lent, we remember the prospect of our own death and what brought it about. In the parable of the rich fool (Luke 12: 13-21), Jesus warns us that our preoccupation with material things and our intoxication with wealth causes us not to think about the direction of our lives, what really matters and the reality of death at the end of life’s journey.
What put Christ on the Cross is our sinfulness which brought about God’s judgment of death. And so, during Lent we mourn the iniquity of our hearts and repent of our sins (Psalm 32) with deep gratitude to Jesus who died the death we deserve. As one writer superbly puts it, “Death remembered now, yields life hereafter.”
Secondly, RECEIVE what was poured out by Christ on the Cross. Receive deep into your being His immeasurable love for you … a love that will never let you go. A love that binds Himself to you in a covenant relationship that is stronger than death. A love that experienced the depths of darkness so that you & I need not face nor fear such blackness in our separation from God.
The Scriptures testify that Christ suffered and died for us (Isaiah 53:5; Romans 4:25; 1 Peter 2:21). Let His love melt away your pride, take away your shame and give you your identity in life.
Let His amazing love also transform every area of your life. In most cultures, when a surprise visitor comes to our home, we quickly whisk the person to the most orderly room in our house and keep the disorderly rooms out of sight. But with Jesus, we want to bring the disorderly parts of our lives to Him – because He will never turn away from us but rather bring order and beauty and wholeness to every part. Only God could free Jacob from self-reliance and deception as his way of life and bring him into the realm of God’s unmerited and uncontrived blessing (Genesis 32: 22-31).
Thirdly, RISE UP to live in the footsteps of Christ on the Cross. As you gaze upon the Lord who suffered and died for you, have the expectancy that just as He rose from the dead, you will rise to a new life of service to God in a broken world. The love of Christ on the cross will begin to constrain you (2 Corinthians 5:14-15) – “love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all.” (from the hymn WHEN I SURVEY THE WONDROUS CROSS).
And the mystery is this: it will not be you living the new life, but it will be the risen Christ living in you through the Holy Spirit (Galatians 2:20-21; John 7:37-39; 1 Corinthians 3:16). Through repentance and the receiving of Christ’s love afresh, you will experience a wonderful intimacy with God. For some of us, it will restore us to the life of service and devotion that we once knew. For others, it will propel you like never before to no longer to live for self but for Him who loved you & gave Himself for you.
How can you start praying at the foot of the Cross? Here are some practical aids. Set aside extended time each week for prayer and fasting during this Lent (2 March – 16 April). Read Mark’s Gospel Chapters 14-15 in one sitting, and then smaller passages each day. There are many good devotional books for Lent. This column on the GSFA website will also carry a weekly devotion every Wednesday in Lent. Include hymns and songs of adoration in your Quiet Time with the Lord. Forgo the dependencies and cravings that keep you from a life centred on God.
Dearly beloved, I believe the Lord is inviting His people to devote themselves to prayer at the foot of the Cross this Lent. We are living in one of those “times of difficulty” (2 Timothy 3:1) or “time of birth pangs” (Matthew 24:8) in salvation history. We need to be cleansed, re-energised, clearly directed, set on fire by the truth of the Gospel and filled with the love of Christ for the challenges and opportunities of our generation. No better place for this to happen than at the foot of the Cross. See you there this Lent for the glory of our great God & King!
The Rt Revd Rennis Ponniah
Hon Director, GSFA Secretariat
Hon Fellow, St Peter’s Hall (Diocese of Singapore)