Friday, March 30, 2018

"Tear Down That Cross"...Or Else

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Radical activists are demanding that the Michigan Department of Natural Resources tear down a historic cross that has stood on public land for nearly 70 years.

We've heard that storyline before, but it's particularly poignant today---on Good Friday.

And even more so when you learn how the cross is used.

An atheist filed a formal complaint because he is offended by the cross. The activist group, Michigan Association of Civil Rights Activists (MACRA), have filed a lawsuit on behalf of the offended person.

Mitch Kahle, co-founder of MACRA, says, "What authority did the state think it had to allow a permanent religious symbol on public land? We expect the state will remove it. Courts are not favorable to crosses on public property."

Well, he's right---courts have not generally been favorable to crosses on public land---or anywhere in the public marketplace.

For nearly 70 years the people of this community, led by the local ministerial association, have walked out to Sackrider Hill where the cross stands and held a united community Easter sunrise service in celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.

On what authority does the state think---or the atheist himself---think it has the right to tear down the cross? Most of us know it's the inverted interpretation of Thomas Jefferson's letter to the Danbury Baptists assuring them the government would not meddle in the affairs of the church. Our Founders created a wall of protection against state intrusion.

What was intended to protect the Christian Church is now used against it.

Kahle is so empowered by the misuse of Jefferson's intent he felt it necessary to tell the press, he doesn't object to the people having a service---just not on public land.

Does he believe he also has a right to legally object to an Easter service?

This will work its way through the courts, and if necessary, the Christians of Jackson County Michigan and the Grass Lake Ministerial Association will find another place to celebrate the Resurrection. They will, however, celebrate it.

The atheist question about "What authority did the state think they have..." and "What right do Christians have to..." reminds me of the circumstances surrounding the death and Resurrection of Christ.

On Palm Sunday, as Jesus rode into the city on the back of a donkey to the praise of the masses, there were those who didn't understand. And all the joy and praise was most likely a source of unease, scandal and upset for those who considered themselves righteous and faithful. And empowered by certain interpretations of law and certain rituals.

While I am not Catholic, I noted in the missive of Pope Francis last Sunday that he said: "Jesus was a victim of a protest that was not grass-roots in origin, but the result of a campaign of slander by the establishment who wanted to see him dead."

He went on to note that the voices a week later---"Crucify Him, Crucify Him" were not spontaneous but armed with disparagement, slander and false witness---the voice of those who twist reality and invent stories for their own benefit."

Indeed, both the religious leaders and the Scribes sought to disfigure His character by spinning the events of the day, as the Roman soldiers would disfigure His face with their swords and thorns crushed into His forehead.

The repeated question by His accusers most often had to do with, "By what authority...does He teach, do miracles, make certain claims..."

He did not really answer that question to His accusers, but fully answered it to His followers.

Just when His accusers believed they had silenced His voice and re-secured their political positions by finally putting this man in a borrowed tomb---He came up missing.

Plan "B" was quickly activated with a bribe to the Roman soldiers and a new talking point: "His disciples came and stole Him away while we slept."

For those who opposed Him, the Resurrection signaled it was over.

For those who worshiped and followed Him, a new life had just begun.

Meeting with His followers after the Resurrection, Jesus said: "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth" (Matt 28:18).

The risen, reigning King of Kings and Lord of Lords reigns over this world and over His mission with absolute sovereignty. If He meets resistance, he either allows it for His purposes or overcomes it for His purposes.

Isaiah (46: 9-10) explained it like this: "I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me," declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying "My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose."

If He wants a Michigan cross to be torn down for His purposes, He will allow it---it will be torn down, and those who remove it will likely never know they were used by God.

If He wants it to remain. It will remain.

Our job is to be faithful in prayer and in deed. And do so in His peace.

The symbols of his birth and His death may be removed by authorities and courts---or not removed.

We who know Him, worship and serve Him, shall not be moved.

Those who stood along the parade route in Jerusalem did so with questions, fears, and misunderstandings.

Those of us who stand before an empty tomb stand in peace, and promise and power.

He is risen.

Because He lives, I can face tomorrow, because He lives all fear is gone..." because I know He holds tomorrow...and I know He holds my hand.

He is risen indeed!

Happy Easter.