I would like to share with you a little history of the cross
and the Crystal Cathedral. Some of you may not realize that
one of the very first things my father built when he came
to California was a cross. He did that because when he was
standing on top of a snack bar rooftop he wanted some kind
of a background. So, that cross was one of the very first
things he built in Southern California and it stood on top
of the snack bar rooftop at the Orange Drive-In Theater.
Then he got a little more elaborate and he built one with
a little more background to it and for Easter they put some
Calla Lilies all over it. For years we have covered the
cross here in the Crystal Cathedral with Calla Lilies. It
wasn't long after that they moved and built a church; and,
actually they had two services. One was here and my father
designed the very first church, which was up by Brookhurst
Street. He designed the church and he designed the cross
in the building of that church. However, when we moved from
the drive-in onto this property (Chapman Ave.), we brought
it here to this property while the Tower of Hope was being
built. That building was built by Richard Neutra. The cross
on the Tower of Hope today is a much bigger cross than was
down below. Today we still have a cross inside the Crystal
Cathedral and we have one in the Arboretum. The cross has
always been a very central theme of this ministry. Since
the very beginning, we have always had a worship center
that held the symbol of our faith; the cross.
I believe the
cross answers three of the most nagging questions with which
every human being struggles.
The three questions
1. Who am I?
2. Where am I
3. Does all of
this really have meaning?
The cross of
Jesus Christ answers these questions. It tells us who we
are. We are children of God saved by grace. That is who
We have had a
running question on our website, where people can post an
answer to the question, "What does the cross mean to
you?" If you want to go to our website at http://www.crystalcathedral.org/,
you can answer the question too. I didn't realize how many
people would respond. I was given a book full of responses
to "What the Cross means to me." When my family
gets together we usually have devotions. Unfortunately,
we cannot have devotions all together as often as we used
to because my "baby" is in college now: he's 19
years old, so it's a little more difficult to get the family
together. However, when we have devotions every once in
awhile we hit a topic that just works. Last night I asked
the question to my family, "What does the cross mean
to you?" I did it at the beginning of dinner. We didn't
stop talking about what the cross meant to us until we were
done with dinner. It grabbed everybody's attention. Everybody
wanted to share what the cross meant to them. Everybody
has a different perception of what the cross is and what
it means. The cross is a symbol with far greater depth than
we can ever possibly imagine. When you read through the
Bible you begin to see what the cross means. In Peter's
letter we read these words: it says "He Himself, Jesus
Christ, bore our sins in His body on the cross." (1
Peter 2:21-25) Why? So that we might die to sin and live
As I have read
through all of these various responses and perceptions that
people have of the cross, over and over again they say,
"The cross is the sign and the symbol of my salvation.
It is God reaching out to me. The cross bridges the gap
between the chasms, as one gentleman said in his definition
of the cross. The chasm is humanity and our sin, and in
God and His holiness, the cross becomes the bridge from
sin and death to life and resurrection.
Many people have
crosses with Jesus Christ hanging on them, known as a crucifix.
One of the things that you may recognize is that every single
one of our crosses here at the Crystal Cathedral is an empty
cross. It does not have Jesus Christ hanging on it. The
reason Jesus Christ doesn't hang on our crosses, is because
we believe even though He died for our sins the fact is
that He came down from the cross. He is no longer on the
cross. He rose from the grave, He conquered sin, He conquered
death, He was victorious and the cross is a sign of a victory!
The cross begins with our guilt, our failure. It continues
with God's grace.
One of the responses
I received was from a gentleman named, Troy. Troy said,
"The cross is the first letter in my name, Troy."
He said, "As a result the cross is a part of me and
I walk with Jesus all the time." Another woman by the
name of Hope said that her grandmother died five years ago.
Three months later, she was flipping through the television
channels and she saw the Hour of Power. She said, "I
knew that my grandma wanted me to watch it and so I started
watching the Hour of Power. When I first started watching,
I had alcohol problems, I was depressed, I couldn't express
myself. Now I am optimistic, I'm a happy person who believes
in Jesus Christ and last year I was baptized. Now I know
I am not alone and Jesus will always be with me and He is
with my family and my friends."
The cross is
a positive, powerful symbol of grace. In Corinthians we
read these words: "For the message of the cross is
foolishness to those who are perishing but to those who
have been saved, it is the power of God." The cross
is the power of God that has the ability to bring us into
His loving arms of grace and hope and beauty and freedom.
We've been saved through the cross through the grace of
Jesus Christ. From our grace we come to a point of thanksgiving
because our grace is not a license and it is not a freedom
to sin but it is a license and a freedom from sin. There
is a dramatic difference. One of the biggest criticisms
other religions have about the Christian faith is that our
understanding of grace and our forgiveness is a license
to sin. I believe that grace is a license and freedom from
sin, so that we might have the ability and the strength
to carry on and be the people that God has called us to
be. Grace allows us to move forward victoriously with an
attitude and an understanding that God is at work within
our lives. Through grace we can succeed and be the human
beings that God has called us to be. As such, we live with
gratitude doing the things that God has called us to do.
One of the worst
tragedies in the history of the great lakes was the sinking
of the Lady Elgin. It took place on September 8, 1860. It
was a magnificent paddle boat and it was traveling from
Chicago up to Wisconsin with several hundred passengers
on board. Unfortunately there was a collision with another
boat and the collision put a hole in the side of the Lady
Elgin which was irreparable. They started making their way
to shore but unfortunately they couldn't get there. Before
they arrived on shore nearly seven hundred people perished.
It was amazing how different stories emerged as a few survivors
managed to find their way to shore. As they did, the news
went out there were people who were trying to make their
way back to shore and some were drowning. One young man
who was actually a swimmer from Northwestern University
heard about the events and he started swimming miles out
to rescue people. He would swim out a mile, grab someone,
haul them back to shore and he would turn around and he
would do it again. In fact, they say he saved 18 people
that day. He stopped at 18, even though there were more
people to save because he was exhausted and delirious. He
was known to have been lying on the beach, beaten by the
rocks and the waves, saying to himself, "I think I
could have saved one more. I think I could have saved one
more." That gentleman, from that day forward, never
walked again. We don't know why. I don't have the history,
but we do know that he recuperated from his exhaustion from
saving those 18 people. He sacrificed his legs and his life
for 18 individuals he had never met before and after saving
all 18 of these people, he spent the rest of his life in
a wheelchair. At the age of 83, he passed away. His name
is Edward Spencer, and there is a plaque displayed at Northwestern
University in his honor. Prior to his death, he said, "One
of the most interesting things about that day and about
the events that have taken place since then is that of the
18 people I saved, not a single one ever said thank you."
Today we see
the cross of Jesus Christ. It is a symbol of His sacrifice
for us. He made incredible sacrifices so that anybody who
will call upon His name, He will reach out and embrace and
invite them to His home and prepare a table for them forever.
All He wants is a thank you. We say thank You by giving
our lives to Him. Who are we without the cross of Jesus
Christ? I don't know! What is our role and purpose for living
without the cross of Jesus Christ? I don't know. Where am
I headed and is there any meaning to all of this in life?
Without the cross of Jesus Christ, I don't know.
The cross of
Jesus Christ is the symbol of grace; it is a symbol of gratitude.
Father, we thank You that You continue to touch human lives
with the power of Your cross. You overshadow our lives from
every angle. That shadow is here to bring hope and victory,
good news and strength. We thank You Lord for what You are
doing in our lives and we praise Your name always and forever,