From Bethlehem to Calvary - Salvation Army Canada

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  • Mar27Wed

    From Bethlehem to Calvary

    A surprise encounter with a painting reminded me to look beyond the manger to the grace of Easter. March 27, 2013 by Commissioner Brian Peddle
    Filed Under:
    Opinion & Critical Thought
    Shadow of the Cross Over Manger, Bjorn Thorkeson Shadow of the Cross Over Manger, Bjorn Thorkeson

    The cross is a wide-open door. It allows me to enter God's spiritual realm where anything is possible. This is a place where mercy, love and forgiveness translate into gifts for the undeserving. A place where my mess is exposed to the creator, God, who views me as his treasured possession, and where the darkest cloud of life's circumstances gives way to the prospect of a silver lining. It's a place where the phrase “just as I am” brings a response of unreserved, limitless grace.

    It amazes me that the cross, such a dark symbol and emblem of cruel torture, grotesque death and the ultimate punishment, has become a symbol of hope. A cross may be held in the hand of a dying person or adorned with diamonds and worn on a gold chain. One even emerged from the ashes of Ground Zero after 9/11 as two steel beams crossed in the rubble.

    I have several crosses in my home office, collected along the way, that hold sentimental value. There's a wooden cross given to me by a Roman Catholic woman who billeted me as a cadet, another made from a cluster of nails held together by a wire received during Easter 1980, and still another from Liberia that was fashioned from a bullet casing into a symbol of hope in the midst of war.

    In these realities and more there is the offer of grace.

    A visit to one of our men's shelters this past Christmas impressed upon me the connection between Bethlehem and Calvary. It came through an image used in a slide presentation, a painting by Bjorn Thorkelson. At first glance, it appeared to me to be a Christmas image simply because the focal point was a lone manger in the middle of a stable. A closer look revealed something else. Light shining through an opening captured the beams of the stable structure and cast the shadow of a cross over the feeding trough. I stared for a moment, captivated. As I reflected, I sensed a nudge from the Holy Spirit and was filled with thanksgiving that God so loved the world that he gave his Son to die. His grace was sufficient for me!

    The good news is that this amazing grace was not mine alone but extended to all who were in the chapel that day—to the men whose lives were broken and ravaged by addiction, to their families who had joined in the special chapel service—and it extends to you.

    In his book Grace—More Than We Deserve, Greater Than We Imagine, Max Lucado says, “The second redemption upstaged the first. God sent not Moses, but Jesus. He smote not Pharaoh but Satan. Not with 10 plagues but a single cross. The Red Sea didn't open, the grave did.”

    This Easter, look past the symbol of the cross, whether it is rugged, stained, wooden or polished gold and experience the grace of God that the cross makes possible. This reflection on the cross and our engagement will enable us to:

    •   say no to sin and yes to the fullness of life in Christ.

    •   embrace that which is righteous and holy and renounce the mediocrity of religion.

    •   rest from striving and human effort, and surrender to his will.

    •   step out of the shadows of salvation and stand in the fullness of his light.

    •   acknowledge how little we deserve God's grace and thank him that it is freely given.

    Titus 2:11-12 (NIV) says, “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say 'No' to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age.”

    God's ultimate plan of transformation for you includes his smile of grace. It should never be about what we deserve but rather what he has provided.


    photo of Commissioner Brian PeddleCommissioner Brian Peddle is the territorial commander of the Canada and Bermuda Territory. Click here to read his columns.

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