The Old Rugged Cross

The Old Rugged Cross – what does that phrase mean to you?

To some, it may bring immediately to mind a classic old hymn.

To others, it may bring immediately to mind a form of cruel torture.

It is odd how people sometimes react to talking about the cross. Some speak of it in glowing, loving terms – grateful for all God has done for them. Others react almost violently – as ironic as that may be – to the mere fact that Christians have long worn small crosses around their necks as a sign of devotion and others wear it as mere ornamentation.

I have been almost attacked….”Why do you Christians have to wear those little crosses around your neck, anyway? Don’t you know it’s just a tool of execution. It’s as if you are hanging a little electric chair around your neck!”

I have actually had people say that to me – with plenty of venom in their voice while doing so. I always have to wonder what has made them so bitter. Sadly, perhaps they have been burned one too many times by an overly zealous Christian trying to “save their soul” in a clumsy, if well-meaning way.

Which brings me to my question. What does the cross mean to you?

Is it a symbol of God’s everlasting love? Is it just a cruel tool of torture? Is it just a decorative item of jewelry – a little gold bling? Is it a reminder, whenever you see it, that God loves the world – the whole world – even those who reject Him?

We are wrestling with these questions in my congregation as part of our Lenten study. We are exploring to put the cross – in all it’s gruesome and glorious power – at the center of our lives of faith.

I would invite you to ponder this too. Not because we all understand what the cross means – but because, perhaps, we can barely grasp all that it means.

By Paul Simrell

The Reverend Paul W. Simrell has served for over thirty years in a variety of congregational and institutional settings. He is a recognized minister with standing in the Virginia region of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the United States and Canada and is nationally endorsed by the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) for specialized ministry in both pastoral counseling and chaplaincy. Ordained in 1982, he has served congregations in Kentucky, Texas, Florida, and Virginia. He currently serves as the pastor of Elpis Christian Church, a small, historic congregation located just a few miles west of Richmond, Virginia. Elpis is the Greek word meaning “expectant hope.” He also serves on the associate clinical staff of the Virginia Institute of Pastoral Care, Richmond, Virginia, both as a pastoral counselor and a ministerial assessment specialist, specializing in executive, clergy and relationship coaching. He is a graduate of the University of Florida and Lexington Theological Seminary and has done advanced clinical training in chaplaincy and pastoral counseling at the University of Kentucky Medical Center in Lexington, Kentucky, Children’s Medical Center and Parkland Hospital in Dallas, Texas and the Virginia Institute of Pastoral Care in Richmond, Virginia. He is a Certified Pastoral Counselor, an ACPE Practitioner, and a member of the American Association of Christian Counselors. He is a Certified Facilitator of the Prepare-Enrich relationship assessment and skills-building program and served as a volunteer chaplain for over twenty years with the CJW Medical Center campuses in Richmond, Virginia. His avocational interests include playing the piano and drawing. He is very happily married to his wife Elizabeth Yeamans Simrell, a free-lance writer, who is also a Certified Facilitator for the Prepare-Enrich program. Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. — Izaak Walton

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