DILLON, Colo. -- In Christianity, the cross holds central prominence.
But to use the term "the cross," is misleading in the sense that it sounds as if there is only one. Well, there was only one cross on which Jesus was crucified. And enough pieces of the True Cross have been found, as Mark Twain once noted, to build several good-size buildings.
But since then the cross has emerged in countless T-shapes and sizes.
I was struck by this reality the other evening when I attended an Ash Wednesday service here at Lord of the Mountains Lutheran Church in the Rockies.
This church's main cross at the front of its sanctuary, as you can see, was formed out of pieces of stained glass and then given a stylized cross-bar in harmony, it seemed to me, with Celtic crosses, though Celtic crosses used a circle to connect the two bars. (Like the cross on the right side of the main photo here today.)
What it's important to remember is that the cross was an instrument of death. And as others have wondered, if Jesus had been electrocuted in the more-modern fashion of today, would we Christians be wearing little electric chairs on chains around our necks?
But if you go into a variety of Christian churches today (not a bad Lenton discipline) you'll inevitably see a variety of crosses. In the sanctuary of my own Presbyterian congregation you'll see a simple (meaning completely plain) gold-colored cross. This past Sunday I attended Mass and spoke to a group at St. James Catholic Church of Kansas City. In that sanctuary you'll see a large crucifix at the front of the sanctuary -- quite tall and quite realistic.
I'll show you here a few pictures of crosses from other Kansas City area churches, just to give you a sense of the variety. But the central message is the same: God loved us enough to die for us. Sometimes Christians get it wrong and say that God loves us because Christ died for us. But that's backwards. It's that Christ died for us because God loves us.
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THE IMPRECISION OF RELIGIOUS NUMBERS
How many Jews are there in the U.S.? Oh, my, what a difficult question to answer, The Forward reports. Indeed, counting Muslims in the U.S. is perhaps even more difficult. Heck, counting people of any faith is fraught with difficulty. And yet we continue to want to know numbers.