Sunday, November 22, 2015
“God has chosen to save the world through the cross, through the shameful and powerless death of the crucified Messiah.” ― Richard B. Hays
About twenty years ago, in February, on a seven-day cruise of the Caribbean before the advent of the giant, small-town-sized cruise ships (ours only took 1,000 passengers, today’s about five to six thousand), we stopped at the U.S. Virgin Island of St. John. I didn’t even go ashore, but Karen did. In an antique store on the island, she found a 300-year-old, Ethiopian cross that had been worn by a slave who died on the island. The shop owner had the copy of the National Geographic Magazine that had a picture of the cross when it was discovered. She wanted to buy it for me, but didn’t have enough money. Somehow, she sweet-talked the shop owner into his first ever lay-away plan. She put down a deposit and then promised to send money every month until it was paid for. It was to be a birthday present for me the next November. She sent the money faithfully and paid it off in June, and it arrived in the post in July. She couldn’t wait until November to give it to me and drove directly to my church office, walked in, handed it to me, and said, “Happy Birthday.” This was eight years before our first trip to Africa, but I loved it and have worn it ever since. Around 1500 A.D., the king of Ethiopia declared his country to be Christian and ruled that every adult male must always wear a cross. The designs of the crosses showed which area, tribe, and family the cross represented. All I know is that it is pure silver that is 300 years old as we had it tested to be sure. It came to pass that my oldest son became engaged to a Canadian woman (his first wife) and that I would conduct the ceremony in Boston. Her parents came from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, to meet us and be a part of the wedding. Before the date of the wedding, Karen and I took the bride’s parents out to eat. Her father was a Lutheran pastor in Canada. As we were waiting for our food, her father looked at my cross and said, “Is there a story behind that cross?” I replied, “Why yes, there is a story behind the cross. About 2,000 years ago, there was a carpenter named Joseph with a wife named Mary . . .” Karen laughed very hard and so did his wife. I must admit I did, too. He was the only one who failed to see the humor in my reply, but then, he was a Lutheran pastor. We have Canadian visitors here today, and I plan to tell them this story at breakfast. What good are good stories, if you don’t get to share them?