During the Season of Lent, these six Sundays leading up to Easter, we are focusing on the different crosses of Jesus and how each one of these crosses offers a unique perspective on the meaning of our faith. Let’s briefly review the first four crosses that we have already covered.
We began this series by looking at the significance of the Latin cross. This particular cross helped us to see the simplicity of the cross. This is the cross shape that the Romans most likely used to crucify Jesus. It’s just a horizontal piece of wood with another vertical piece of wood near the top, about two thirds high.
And I think this particular cross has a way of helping us to remember the basic truth of what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ. To know that Jesus died for the world and on the third day rose again. It doesn’t get any more basic than this simple but profound message.
The following Sunday, we focused on the particular meaning of the Jerusalem Cross which consists of a large cross in the middle with four small crosses in each corner. And the whole point of the Jerusalem Cross is to remind us that the good news of the cross of Jesus Christ didn’t stay in Jerusalem where Jesus was crucified and rose again, but has been extended throughout the whole world.
Two Sundays ago, we thought about the Tau cross which is a symbol of how God offers us physical, emotional, mental, relational, and spiritual healing. God cares about our mind, body, and soul.
Last Sunday, we looked at the meaning of the Celtic Cross which is in the shape of the Latin cross and it has a circle in the middle of it. That circle reminds us that we are all part of God’s circle of love. We also spent a lot of time thinking about the Celtic side of our Christian faith which emphasizes that heaven and earth overlap in mysterious ways, called “thin place” moments.
And this brings us to today and our focus on the St. Andrew’s cross. This cross is shaped in a unique way to help us appreciate the importance of humility in our walk with Christ. And here’s the reason why it reminds us of humility.
Church tradition tells us that Andrew, who was one of the original twelve disciples of Jesus, ended up being crucified for his faith, as was true with all twelve of the disciples with the exception of just two, Judas Iscariot who betrayed Jesus, and the disciple, John, who as far as we know, lived into his 90s and died of natural causes.
Here’s the brief story about the disciple, Andrew, the person connected with our cross for today. His name appears only fourteen times in the New Testament with only one of those references being outside of the four Gospels and that is in the Book of Acts. And of those fourteen references where Andrew’s name appears, three of them are simply where he’s included in a listing with the other twelve disciples.
But whenever Andrew’s name appears outside of those lists, there’s a common thread – he’s always bringing people to meet Jesus. If you remember, it’s Andrew who brought his brother, Simon Peter, to Jesus for the first time.
And it’s Andrew who brings a little boy to Jesus who happens to have five loaves and two fish. And with those five loaves and two fish, Jesus miraculously fed five thousand people with that little bit of food.
It’s Andrew, who with the help of the disciple, Phillip, tells Jesus about some people outside of the Jewish faith who wanted to meet Jesus.
So every time Andrew’s name is mentioned, he is about bringing people to Jesus and that’s why he is primarily known for evangelism. But the particular type of cross that bears his name is not primarily about evangelism, but about his humility.
You will notice that the St. Andrew’s cross is really an “X” shape which is very different from any of the other crosses. Church tradition tells us that following the time of the New Testament period, Andrew was crucified for his faith. And because of his tremendous humility, he chose not to be crucified in the same way as Jesus. Instead, he was crucified upside down and that’s why we have this particular shaped cross.
Incidentally, Andrew’s brother, Simon Peter, also chose to be crucified in a similar way, but the shape of St. Peter’s cross is an upside down Latin cross. Both the cross of St. Peter and the cross of St. Andrew are symbols of their example of humility as followers of Jesus Christ.
And if you’re into history, you might be interested in this. Several centuries after Andrew died for his faith, tradition tells us that his relics were brought to Scotland by a missionary which is why St. Andrew is known as the Patron Saint of Scotland.
Even today people continue to make pilgrimages to this location in Scotland that is named after this saint. These modern day religious pilgrims are also known as golfers. Of course, I’m referring to the world famous St. Andrew’s golf course in Scotland. Come to think of it, golf is a great way to keep a person humble.
One of my favorite scriptures comes from James 4:10. “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.” Humble yourselves.
In our Isaiah scripture passage from the Old Testament, the Lord says, “But this is the one to whom I will look, to the humble and contrite in spirit, who trembles at my word.”
St. Augustine, one of the most well known of all the Christian saints who lived in the 4th century once said, “Should you ask me: What is the first thing in religion? I should reply: the first, second, and third thing therein is humility.”
Maybe you heard of the famous conductor who was once asked which instrument he considered the most difficult to play. He thought for a moment and then he said, “Second fiddle.”
Being humble isn’t an easy thing.
Several years ago, Penny and I went on a ten day tour of Italy. One day while we were there, I was standing in front of a famous fountain in the beautiful city of Florence when a woman tried to get my attention. She waved for me to be in her picture and had me scoot over to my right so that the fountain could be seen in the background.
So I moved toward my right thinking that I was now in the place she wanted me to be. But then she put down her camera, and while scrunching up her face, she motioned for me to get out of the way.
It was at that point, that I looked behind me, and there, posing for her picture were her husband and children. She didn’t want me in her picture. She wanted me to step aside. It was a very humbling moment!
William Beebe, the naturalist, used to tell this story about Teddy Roosevelt. At Sagamore Hill, after an evening of talk, the two would go out on the lawn and search the skies for a certain spot of star-like light near the lower left hand corner of the Great Square of Pegasus. Then Roosevelt would recite:
“That is the Spiral Galaxy in Andromeda. It is as large as our Milky Way. It is one of a hundred million galaxies. It consists of one hundred billion suns, each larger than our sun.”
Then Roosevelt would grin and say, “Now that we are reminded of how small we really are in this world, it’s time to go to bed!”
Well, I guess that’s one way to stay humble – just think about how large God’s world is and how small we really are in the world.
But I think St. Andrew’s Cross might offer a better way for us to stay humble. The reason that church tradition tells us that Andrew chose not be crucified in the same manner as his Lord, was because his focus was totally on his Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
It’s by keeping our focus on Christ that allows us to be humble people whose main priority is to be the most faithful disciples of Jesus Christ that God is calling us to be.
James says, “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.”
Mark Feldmeier, who has written the book, “Stirred, Not Shaken,” tells of a time when he was visiting Washington D.C. and he was sitting on a bench in front of the White house. And while he was sitting there and eating a hot dog, he was thinking about all of the monuments that were around him, monuments of famous people who have done great things. And he began to wonder why at age 35, he still hadn’t done anything all that great in his life.
As he thought about this, a stranger came up to him and asked if he could have a drink of his coke. Mark said that this man had fire in his eyes with the sour smell of the city all over him.
Here, Mark had been day dreaming about doing something great in his life that would make an impact on the world, maybe even something great enough that a limestone monument would be erected in his memory someday.
And now, all that God seemed to want from him was to give this guy some of his coke drink. He watched him raise the bottle to his cracked lips, tip his head back, and take a hard long swallow. When he finally came up for air, the man tried to give the bottle back to him but he insisted that the man just keep it and drink the rest of it.
While it’s not a bad thing to want to do something great and awesome for the world and maybe even have a monument named after us, the cross of St. Andrew reminds us that it’s really serving others in the little ways that matter the most to God. The small humble ways like giving a stranger something to drink on a hot day.
Earlier this past week I read a heart warming story from the Chicken Soup for the Soul website about a very humble thing that a grandfather did for his granddaughter’s 16th birthday last week.
This grandfather gave his granddaughter three notebooks that chronicled every moment they had spent together when she was between the ages of 2 and 5. The notes include times like when they went to the zoo, spent time shopping together, and their visits to pumpkin patches.
He knew that this would be something she would appreciate later in her life and he thought that her 16th birthday would be the best time to give this gift to her.
His granddaughter, Lauren was so moved by this humble gesture on the part of her grandfather. She commented, “He’s actually really shy until you really get to know him. He’s always been a considerate person for me especially.”
Ok, I don’t admit this very often. I read this article this past week, and when I read the granddaughter’s response I got really choked up because it reminded me that it’s often the little humble things that we do that make the biggest difference in people’s lives.
Sometimes, we are so focused on doing something great and noteworthy that we take our eyes off Jesus and we miss those moment to moment opportunities to serve others in the name of Christ. And those moments are right there in front of us. All we need to do is see others through the eyes of Christ.
Next Sunday, we will be celebrating Palm Sunday when Jesus’ came into Jerusalem riding on a donkey and the large crowd of people who waved palm branches as he went by.
You know, I wonder if that donkey who carried Jesus that day, ever thought to himself that they were waving those branches for him instead of for the one who was riding on his back.
The cross that is in the shape of an “X” reminds us that those palm branches were meant for Jesus, the one who would die on a cross for the sins of the world, the one who gave everything to rescue us from sin and death.
“Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble. Were you there when they crucified my Lord?”
Crosses of Jesus: St. Andrew's Cross
Small Group Questions
Isaiah 66:1-2 & James 4:7-10
April 2, 2017
Church tradition tells us that the disciple, Andrew was crucified on a cross like this because he did not want to be crucified on the same style of cross upon which Christ was killed. This was because of his very humble faith.
What helps you to have a humble faith where you keep the focus on Christ and not upon yourself?
In addition to being known for his humility, Andrew is also known for the many times he brought people to Christ. Andrew reminds us that being humble doesn't mean that we are to be silent about our faith. Our small groups are designed to help each other share how God is present in our everyday lives. If we take time to do this in our small group, we will probably be more likely to share our faith with those outside the church.
Share a recent "thin place moment" where you experienced Christ's presence in your everyday life.
Pastor Robert shared an example of a pastor who had prayed for God to use him in some big way and God answered his prayer by having a homeless man sit next to him on a bench and ask him for a drink from his bottle of Coke. The pastor simply let him have his coke bottle. This story reminds us that God's definition of greatness is often about simply doing the small humble things to be a blessing to others.
Think of a way that you might serve somebody or others in a simple and humble way this week. Share with the group.