When our Ash Wednesday service has ended, I linger in front of a mirror . . . to ponder that I have just been marked with the horror and hope of Jesus’ cross. No other hymn captures so thrillingly the paradox of this horror and hope as Isaac Watts’s “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross.” We “survey” the cross. We don’t just glance at it. We measure it carefully, size it up, consider every angle.
Too often, we sanitize the cross, preferring those of smooth wood or shiny metal. The original cross would have been of olive wood, gnarled with human flesh nailed to it. Crucifixion was a gruesome, horrifyingly painful, public humiliation of criminals. Having seen plenty of crosses, the soldiers at the foot of Jesus’ cross didn’t “survey” this one. . . . They could not see that this was God and that this was the start of a revolution of redemption.
—James C. Howell, Unrevealed Until Its Season: A Lenten Journey with Hymns (Upper Room Books, 2021)
When have you looked closely at a cross and thought about what Jesus did for us?
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[Christ] himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, so that, free from sins, we might live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed.
—1 Peter 2:24 (NRSV)
Prayer for the Week
O God, we give you thanks for hymn writers of the past and present. Help us to always have a song of praise on our lips and in our hearts, especially in times of trouble. Amen.
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What is Lent? When is Lent? Why do we set it apart? Learn more about this special season by reading Lent 101.
(Courtesy of Vanderbilt Divinity Library)
Looking for lectionary-based resources? Learn more about The Upper Room Disciplines.