Dear members and friends of our ELS:
“Should we be surprised?” we might express with sad sarcasm. The barrage of attacks on the Christian faith increases. Little can shock the Christian community any more. Blasphemy seems the order of the day. The warnings our Savior gave to His disciples ring truer than ever: “You will be hated by all nations because of me. At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people” (Matthew 24:9–11).
Now, we hear once again of another leader in the Christian community fueling the fire. A lesbian bishop (sic) from the Lutheran Church of Sweden advocates removing the cross from a seaport church so that visitors from other religions will not be offended. She also wishes to set up a prayer room in the church for Muslim visitors to use. Catering to people of divergent faiths, especially Islam, is seen as more important than the message of the Christian cross. Bishop Eva Brunne states: “Making a room available for people of other faiths does not mean we are not defenders of our own faith. But that does not mean we are stingy toward people of other faiths.” Many Swedish Lutherans disagree with the bishop and see this as simply another woeful sign of the “Islamization of Europe.”
The message of Christ’s cross is central to the Christian faith. Without it, all is lost. Even our national holiday of Thanksgiving loses import for Christians, were the religion of Christ gutted from His crucifixion. Can one truly enjoy the fruits of the earth without the fruits of the cross? Christmas certainly would not bring joy if the cross were not already in the divine plan at the manger.
A cross hanging in a sanctuary or hanging as jewelry around the neck always begs the question: What is its purpose? Embedded in that symbol—used by Christians of every generation—is the news we sinners cannot live without. The Gospel speaks of how long ago, on a rugged piece of wood erected outside Jerusalem and up the hill of Calvary, our loving Lord made full atonement for the sins of you and me and the entire world. His bloody sacrifice was and is a full substitute for every soul who has ever lived and ever will live! Why would anyone who knows and believes what the cross of Jesus means care to hide it? Lift high the cross! The real story of Christmas, of Good Friday, of Easter is the story of LIFE for all, through faith in the Holy Child who came to the Bethlehem manger.
Good conversations about the Savior have occurred in reference to the cross symbol—around a neck, on a jacket, on a vehicle, or… even in a seacoast sanctuary!
May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ (Galatians 6:14).
Rev. John A. Moldstad, ELS President