Thirty years ago, a Lutheran bishop in Germany, Theo Sorg, preached on Good Friday, taking as his starting point the claim that everyone needs a “fixed point”—a point of orientation for life, or getting through a day, or getting through a storm. Golgotha, Sorg said, is just such a fixed point. The cross overshadows our lives and gives us a fixed point to turn to for the foundations of living life each day. Sorg called Golgotha the point where not only Mary and John’s family life assumed a new character, but it is the point of orientation for all human community that uses the cross to straighten out the lives of individuals turned in upon themselves. In Genesis 2, the Creator built the foundations of human life on trust in Himself, for He comes to us as a God seeking conversation and fashioning a community between us and Himself. He also saw it was not good for Adam to be alone. He built human community into our lives as a natural result of our being in community with Himself, the Creator of those human beings He has placed around us, who is also our Creator.
Satan’s deception first destroyed Adam’s and Eve’s trust in their Creator and deprived them of their reliance on His Word and their confidence in His way of life. This destroyed the trust which bound Adam and Eve together. Adam blamed Eve for their defying His command not to eat of the fruit, and then he blamed God for giving him Eve. Failure to rest in God robs us of our ability to be at home and at ease with other human creatures—to say nothing of the rest of creation. The rustling of a leaf drives us like a sword into fearful flight (Leviticus 26:36). Our relationships with other people are marred and mauled by jealousy and envy, by lust and manipulation, by hatred and fear. Human relationships apart from God do not function well because there is no fixed point on which we can rely to give us orientation for our confident interaction with others. There is no back-up, for our trust covers our suspicions of unreliability or betrayal on the side of the other person. Therefore, we deny him or her solid reason to trust us. Thus, we choose false points of orientation and base our relationships on being male or female, Jew or Greek, slave or free. We count on having a common political affiliation or a shared economic situation or a mutual ethnic background or racial identification to form a lasting bond. But Paul reminds us of the end of our reliance on these easily dissolvable connections fashioned by human ideology. These identities, as important as they are for us in secondary ways, give way to the foundational identity established by our death to sin and resurrection to new life in Christ. In baptism the Holy Spirit bestowed upon us this death to sin and resurrection to being and acting as a child of God (Galatians 3:25-29, Romans 6:1-11, Colossians 2:11-15).
Human relationships apart from God do not function well because there is no fixed point on which we can rely to give us orientation for our confident interaction with others.
Realizing Christ has created us for a different kind of community in the shadow of the cross does not mean we reject old friends or distance ourselves from relatives who do not share our faith in Christ. These old relationships are sometimes broken because those outside the faith are put off by our new orientation toward Golgotha. But relationships with those who do not share our Golgothan perception of life may nonetheless be restored in refreshed and renewed forms by our new regard and our readiness to show them love from the side of Christ’s faithful. Believers in Christ, with eyes fixed on the true needs of those around us, also fix their eyes on Christ’s cross. This means we view old friends and family in new and fresh ways, for they now see through Christ-colored glasses. That point of view stems from Golgotha’s heights. It places believers under the needs of those around them. In that process new communities are formed by the Holy Spirit and the new family of the people of the cross emerges at its foot.
Old associations must die under the weight of the cross. Old dependencies on other human beings are transformed into healthier relationships because Christians no longer need to make their dependence on friends or family members the ultimate source of their feeling safe and secure. Finding ultimate security in the numbers brought together by our own political party, or our own class, or our thinking of human beings in terms of their race collapses under the weight of the cross. Our inability to recognize fellow human creatures as creatures of the one Creator of everyone gives way to the light shone from the darkness of Golgotha into our lives. It brightens up our relationships with those whom God has arranged encounters with the needs of a variety of people for us.
The cross draws to itself those governed by their need to turn in on themselves, to find within their own powers the ability to create identity, security, and meaning for themselves. Placing “my rights” above “my neighbors” creates lonely people, easily caught up in fear, anger, and also self-indulgence. Focusing on “me first” rather than “my Lord above all” twists life into a concentration on a false center. It also places the weight of life onto a foundation which is bound to crumble no matter how hard we try to shore it up.
Focusing on “me first” rather than “my Lord above all” twists life into a concentration on a false center.
The beacon that shows us the way to such relationships shines from Golgotha’s cross. At its foot John meets Mary once again and are made family (John 19:26-27). In the shadow of the cross, much more surprising, a Roman soldier stood near to disciples of Jesus and was moved to say, “Truly, this man was Son of God!” Passersby’s stand next to disciples and hear something of who this crucified One was supposed to be.
On Golgotha those turned in upon themselves experience the reconciling power of the sacrifice of Him whose corpse hung there. There we experience Christ’s lifting of the crushing burden of our sinfulness from us and placing it upon Himself. There Paul tells us God closed the gap and bridged the gulf we had carved out to establish our own mastery and control of life. That attempt always fails, of course, but God defied the gully we had dug to protect ourselves from His interference in our lives. Christ crossed the chasm. From His beachhead in humanity at Golgotha, he constructed the bridge and provides our only way back to the Father. As He was constructing this reconciliation of us to our Creator, he was also fashioning a “ministry of reconciliation,” a service of meeting others where they are amid this world’s shadows and darkness and taking them with us back into the presence of God (2 Corinthians 5:17-21). We meet them in their loneliness and their rebellion with the sympathy born of having been in their lonely and rebellious shoes ourselves. We meet them with patience given only by the Holy Spirit. We open for them the path to Golgotha, where death of sin and reconciliation to our loving Lord await all whom the Holy Spirit uses us to bring back to their home and ours in the presence of our heavenly Father.
When we have reason to ask, “Where am I?” or “Where do I belong?” the fixed point of Golgotha shines the light of Christ’s cross into our lives. It illuminates our environment. We find ourselves in the presence of our loving Father, our Creator, and Jesus risen from the dead. We have been brought into this presence by the Holy Spirit through His Word of death and resurrection by drowning and resuscitation. As we look around, we see our sisters and brothers in Christ gathered at the Lord’s banquet table. We rejoice in all the moments of fellowship and sharing He gives us with His own and with those yet outside His Church but needing to get in. The Holy Spirit beams the work of Christ on the cross into our lives, spreading out our arms as His arms were spread out on the wood, so we may embrace the needs of those whom He has placed around us.