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We Preach Christ Crucified
1 Corinthians 1:18, 23-24


Pastor Kevin Vogts
Holy Cross Lutheran Church
Dakota Dunes, South Dakota
Holy Cross Day (Transferred from September 14)—September 18, 2011

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

What a joy it is to be worshipping again today in our sanctuary, after all the events of this summer.  And, today is an especially appropriate day for our congregation to be celebrating this special occasion.  Because, the name of our congregation is Holy Cross, and today we are observing, a few days late, Holy Cross Day, which in the church calendar falls each year on September 14th. 

It is an old custom for churches to have special services, festivals, carnivals, and even parades on the feast day of their patron saint, or other day in the church year after which they are named.  So, it is appropriate that, after being displaced for several months, today we are celebrating Holy Cross Day by joyously gathering together again for worship in our sanctuary.

In today’s Epistle Reading for Holy Cross Day, the Apostle Paul emphasizes the significance and centrality of the cross of Christ for the Christian Church: “We preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. . . For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”

Recently, a famous campus crusade organization changed their name to eliminate the word Christ.  Instead of “Campus Crusade for Christ” they are now known simply by the meaningless moniker “Cru,” C-R-U.  Here in Sioux City there is a new church that meets in a shopping mall.  Instead of a sermon, each week they have a video on some topic, ranging from personal to political to general news of the day, much like an episode of Dr. Phil or 60 Minutes.  But, one topic this supposed church doesn’t ever seem to cover is the one thing Paul says is most important in a church: “We preach Christ crucified.”

Both of these examples reflect a consumer-oriented approach to religion.  The idea is that, just like any business, in order to be successful a church should give people what they want.  If the name of Christ makes people uncomfortable, then just change your name and remove it.  And, if the ancient message of the church about Christ crucified no longer seems relevant in our modern age, then the message needs to be changed too.

This consumer-oriented approach to religion was pioneered three decades ago by a new church started in a Chicago suburb.  They actually surveyed the area around the church to find out what the people there already believed, what doctrines they’d like to see in a church.  And, then this church proceeded to tailor its “product,” its doctrine, according to market, according to what the potential customers wanted.  And it worked!  That church now has a weekly attendance of 24,000.

It seems the Apostle Paul was specifically writing about our day and age when he warned in 2nd Timothy: “For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.”

Paul faced a similar situation in Corinth.  Through his ministry there, the Lord had planted a Christian congregation in that city.  But, after Paul moved on, other preachers came in with different, false doctrines, and the congregation broke up into groups.  The people didn’t know whom to follow, which group, which preacher, which church, which denomination, which doctrine. 

In today’s Epistle Reading, Paul tells them what to look for in a church, what the church is really supposed to be all about:  “Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified. . .”  The Good News of Christ crucified is not just one among many equally interesting topics for the church to cover.  And, Christ crucified is not an optional teaching or message, that we can set aside if we don’t think it’s relevant anymore in our modern age. Because, proclaiming the message of Christ crucified is the whole purpose of the Church.

Preaching “Christ crucified” encompasses much more than just the historical fact that Jesus of Nazareth died on a cross.  Preaching “Christ crucified” includes the reason why he was crucified, why he died on the cross: Because you are a sinner.  Jesus of Nazareth died on the cross on account of your sins, suffering in your place the punishment you deserve.

But, the Good News of “Christ crucified” is that on account of his sacrifice, on account of his life, death and resurrection from the dead, your sins are all forgiven, you are at peace with God.  “He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross.”  “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins.”  “Everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”  “The gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”  “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved.”

The preaching of “Christ crucified” also includes all the other doctrines of the Bible.  Jesus was talking about the whole Bible when he said, “If you continue in my word you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.”

Today, as we celebrate Holy Cross Day and the grand reopening of our church, it is a good occasion to ask: “Why are we here?  Why is our church called ‘Holy Cross’?  What is Holy Cross Lutheran Church really all about?”

“We preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. . . For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”

Amen.

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