“We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.”
It was my first Spring in the congregation. David shook my hand on Sunday morning after the service and said, “We’ll be planting soon. Would you come by and say a prayer?”
A few days later I went to the sanctuary and took the beautiful, oak and walnut processional cross out of its stand. After loading it in the back of my pickup, I headed out of town. The streets of Fergus Falls, Minnesota blended away into a landscape of farms, stands of budding trees and broad fields that stretched to the horizon.
Before long, I rolled to a stop next to a row of huge silver silos. My parishoners, David and Debbie, were waiting to greet me. I asked David to take the cross out of the bed of the truck. “Doesn’t this belong in church?, he asked. “Yes”, I replied. “That’s why It’s here.” We walked together a bit awkwardly, stumbling over clods along the deep furrows then paused. I planted the cross firmly in the black earth and we prayed. We gave thanks for life and health, for the good earth, for those who work the soil and their families. We prayed for the safety of David and his workmen, for a productive season and a bountiful harvest. We prayed for those who would be fed by what was grown here. We remembered the words of Jesus that unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it cannot live.
It was such a simple gesture. But it connected Sunday with Monday. It connected worship with creation and vocation. That was the idea. There is no place where the cross is out of place. Not for God’s people.
The following Sunday David and Debbie again stopped at the church door. “From now on church won’t be quite the same”, she said with smile. “When we look at that cross and that field we will remember your visit, how the church came to us.”
When you were baptized you received the sign of the cross so that you might know that wherever you are, there Jesus is. That’s His promise to you. And where Jesus is looks like, dying and rising, planting and growing, good soil, abundance, “newness of life”. He came on a cross so that all avenues would be opened, all impossibilities resurrected. Forgiveness is like that. God comes to us. Jesus plants His cross, His baptism, willy nilly, in the thick of living, your living; in fields, offices, schoolrooms, board rooms and bedrooms, laying claim to sinners where they are, where they live, bringing new life.
A postscript: The following Saturday I was walking through the sanctuary as the Altar Guild was preparing for Sunday worship. One of the ladies called me over and asked if I knew anything about the dirt on the processional cross. I examined the end of the long, wooden shaft, now stained with the earth from David and Debbie’s field and a few, small scratches. “It looks to me”, I replied, ” like Jesus has been making house calls.”
“May the peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord.”