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    Upon the Cross Extended

    5th Midweek Lenten Service 1 Peter 2:19-24Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  In the name of Jesus who ascended a cross for you and me, friends in Christ,Where do you turn in times of suffering and pain?  The author of this hymn was well acquainted with the pain and suffering this sinful world has to offer.  He lived in Germany during the 17th Century.  His dad died when he was 12 years old, his mom died 2 years later.  He lived during the Thirty Years War that brought horrid devastation to Germany including his own hometown that was ravaged and burned.  He lived at a time when plague and disease devastated families including his own – his first born daughter died before she reached 1 year old and he ended up losing 4 out of 5 of his children and then his wife died leaving him with a 6 year old son.  He even felt the brunt of religious persecution at a time when he was pressured and then forced out of his position as pastor because he wouldn’t compromise the truths of God’s Word.  He was acquainted with suffering.Suffering and pain in life are bad enough when they’re the consequences of our own sins.  Suffering and pain are even harder to bear when they come because we’re doing the right thing or the good thing or simply come because we live in a sinful world that’s full of sickness, disease, loss, trouble, danger, and death.  So the question is, where do you turn in times of suffering and pain?  Where do I turn when life is difficult or problems come?  Perhaps to anger at the unjust circumstances of life?  Maybe to a self-help or coping mechanism?  Maybe to drinking?  Maybe to comparing, “At least it isn’t as bad as they have it” or “it could always be worse.”  Where do you turn in the midst of pain and suffering?Our hymn writer knew where to turn in the midst of all the turmoil of his life.  The one source of comfort and confidence in all suffering is found in one place: the cross of Christ.  If we want to see the ultimate example of unjust suffering or suffering for doing good, we need look no further than Christ.  “He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.  When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats.  Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly.”  There he is being insulted, mocked, suffering.  The Prince of Life from heaven Himself has freely given to shame and blows and bitter death.We might complain about suffering in our lives.  Why God?  Why?  But the truth?  Because of our sins we deserve infinitely worse than the troubles in our day to day lives.  “Tis I who should be smitten, my doom should here be written: Bound hand and foot in hell.  The fetters and the scourging, the floods around you surging, ‘tis I who have deserved them well.”  But it’s not us suffering hell, “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree.”  “A crown of thorns your wearing, my shame and scorn you’re bearing that I might ransomed be.”Where do you turn in the midst of suffering?  To yourself?  To this world and its momentary pleasures?  No.  With the hymn writer turn to the cross of Christ.  Jesus’ crown thorns and His cross of death means your crown of life in heaven!  Jesus paid the price that sets you free from sins, when he shed his precious blood for you.  This wounded, bleeding body of Christ upon the cross extended is your life, your world, your salvation!What will tomorrow bring?  Another earthquake?  Another tragedy?  A trip to the hospital?  A death in the family?  A crisis?  Where will you turn for peace and comfort amidst life’s challenges and troubles?  With the hymn writer look to just one place: Look to the cross of Christ, your Savior, it’s his cords of love that have bound you to him forever, and in him find your rest and refuge today, tomorrow, and every day till your life’s end.  And then, having turned to the cross of your Savior, having been reminded of his love, having grown in your faith, you will become more like Christ.  And then our own troubles and sufferings are transformed from misery to ministry as even in the midst of earthly trouble and difficulty our lives point to the eternal comfort we have in Christ upon the cross extended.
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