The Holy Cross – Life from Death – Br. Curtis Almquist

Br. Curtis Almquist

Holy Cross Day
Galatians 6:14-18

Jesus was convinced and, ultimately, convincing of others that on the other side of death is life. Jesus says, “For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.”[i]  Here’s the best way for us to lose our life on Jesus’ terms: surrender. Surrender being god of your own life to Jesus Christ.The only way to live life is to allow Jesus Christ to live within us. This was St. Paul’s discovery. In his writings, St. Paul uses one particular phrase more than 85 times: “…in Christ.” He speaks of living his life “in Christ.”  “No longer” living life on others’ terms, or even on his own terms. He’s “no longer” doing that. St. Paul says repeatedly he’s now living his life “in Christ.”[ii]  

Live your life inside of Christ, who lives inside of you. Surrender your life, surrender your destiny, and take Jesus at his word: that life for you will come out of death. Your dying is the gateway to real life. You will face death many-a-time in this life. Life some days, some seasons, can be such a killer. And that is the very cross that Jesus is sharing with you. Live your life inside of Christ who lives inside you, and you will absolutely, positively, undeniably, miraculously discover how life comes out of death.  

There’s two ways to know this to be true about Jesus’ way of the cross: how life can come out of death for you. For one, remember your own life experience. The principal founder of SSJE, Richard Meux Benson, wrote: “A disciple asks Christ, ‘Teach me the law of the Holy Cross, the mystery of our redemption.’ To which Christ replies, ‘My child, you must learn this mystery by experience: Take up your cross and it will teach you all things.’”[iii]And so for you. Your cross is your teacher. Where can you recall how your breaking has been your making, how your dying has led to your rising, where life – real life, amazing life, abundant life – has come out of something that just killed you? This is not about resuscitation; this is about resurrection, the resurrection of your life. Draw on the miracle of your personal experience, how life, absolutely transformed life, has come out of death in your own past. That cycle will repeat: death and life; death and life.  

Secondly, if right now you can find no hope but only suffering and desolation in the cross you’ve been handed to carry – what is just killing you now– surrender your life and surrender your death, your many deaths, to Jesus. The weaker you are, the more powerless you feel, the more you will be able to understand this. You have nothing more to lose. Live your life inside of Christ who lives inside of you. He will embody you and enable you. This is Jesus’ way, the way of the cross.  And it’s within reach. It’s within Jesus’ reach for you. And that he does: reaches out for you, carries you, makes good on his promise that life, amazing life for you, that comes out of death. It does, and it will. 

Almighty God, whose Son our Savior Jesus Christ was lifted high upon the cross that he might draw the whole world to himself: Mercifully grant that we, who glory in the mystery of our redemption, may have grace to take up our cross and follow him; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen. 

[i]Matthew 16:25.

[ii]Saint Paul speaks of the radical turnabout in the management of his former life, using the term “no longer” more than 25 times.

[iii]Richard Meux Benson, SSJE (1824-1915).

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  1. carol carlson on September 14, 2020 at 22:48

    Thank you, Br. Curtis. As priest of the Church of the Holy Cross, I thought we needed a hymn all of our own to remind us of our motto ‘By the power of the holy cross’. Constant adherence to this motto has served us well in creating a congregation that seeks to be humble, self-giving, attuned to the ways we find life and joy in following a crucified Lord. Here is what we affectionately call the Holy Cross ‘fight song’, which we sing (to the wonderful tune ‘Highwood’) each Holy Cross Day (on those when we can’t sing, we just pray it) and sometimes in between. The stanzas are meant to represent the progress of the Christian community from laboring ‘in the midst of loss’, as we are now doing, to the full confidence of Christ’s empowering presence among us, as we have experienced it. I hope you enjoy them – a little contribution to you and your brothers, in return for your many contributions to us. Carol Carlson

    Lord Jesus Christ, your presence in this hour
    We seek, who labor in the midst of loss.
    We cannot find our way without the power
    Of your great victory in the holy cross.

    Speak your true word, and give us ears to hear it;
    Show us your glory; heal our wounded sight.
    O let us find in you, by your blest Spirit,
    All peace, all good, all wisdom, all delight.

    Sanctify both our hope and our endeavor;
    Cleanse us from evil, heart and mind and soul;
    So may our consecrated lives forever
    Proclaim the love that bought and made us whole.

    All things are ours: Emmanuel walks beside us.
    We turn to you, O Christ, in every need.
    Sorrow, distress or scorn shall not divide us:
    We are your people, strong in word and deed.

    In you we will not falter nor cease trying;
    In you we count all worldly gain but dross;
    In you rejoicing, we have life undying,
    Lord, by the power of your holy cross.

  2. Sandi Mizirl on September 14, 2020 at 08:32

    Thank you for sharing your wisdom and insight. It was pure gift and hit its mark.

  3. SusanMarie on September 14, 2020 at 08:16

    Only in the last few years have I really understood the concept of redemptive suffering, and it has truly changed the course of my life. When suffering comes—when something is just killing me—I ask Jesus what he wants me to learn from the experience; what does he want me to know that I do not already know? Two things almost always come to me: surrender and humility. From that place, I know that I will learn and grow from the experience rather than resent it or allow myself to be hurt, bitter, resentful, vindictive, lay blame on another, or play the victim. I will move to a new understanding of myself, with forgiveness toward another, myself, and/or life for being what it is. I know now that God can use anything for good. God can redeem anything. So often, I was the one who refused to let God do God’s work within me because I refused to surrender. While I know I will do this dance over and over before it’s all over, the struggle to surrender gets easier every time and I have found a more peaceful and gentle way to live…in Christ. And for this I say, THANKS BE TO GOD! Thank you for this good sermon!

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