Too Long at the Fair
If you’ve been tracking with me for a while, you know that much of the time I’ve been focusing my attention on the cross of Christ and its meaning for our lives. My desire is not to stray from this “one thing needful,” the essential message of the cross. You can read any number of Christian best-sellers in which that message is marginal at best. Christian publishers, hoping to hit upon the next great Christian goldmine, promise again and again that the latest book is the one that will usher you into a life of permanent fulfillment and happiness. The Christian marketplace is a cacophony of these competing promises. The marketing-ethic, which is by no means closely associated with a rigorous honesty, has been adopted wholesale even by well-intentioned Christian ministries.
The Christian life, here in America at least, begins to resemble nothing more than a carnival midway. The barkers compete with one another to grab your attention, making euphoric promises. The colored lights, the jangling music, the cotton candy and the plastic prizes - our senses are filled but our minds are empty. Stay too long, and you begin to feel a little queasy. Your head aches. Your body yearns for substantial fare. But someone just hit the bull’s eye and won a Christian CD. Her face is ecstatic. Surely it’s a God-thing. And someone else just bought a ticket on the carousel of "purpose." He just knows it’s going to change his life. Meanwhile, at the other end of the midway is the big tent where the miracle-workers promise power from on high. You’ll have to wait in line, but that’s okay. It’s all so much like "the world," you feel right at home.
Meanwhile, on a hill far away stand three unattended crosses. If you go there, you go alone. You approach with trepidation. Something inside you says no, turn back, there’s nothing for you here. The silence of the moment distresses you, betraying the shallowness of your own thoughts, and you long for the convenient distractions of the midway again. But you’re a Christian, after all, and there’s something about this place that draws you onward. Once, long ago, you had stumbled on this place, and yes, your life was changed, and given purpose, and given meaning, direction, even power. Almost against your will you fall to your knees before the central cross and weep and weep. Forgive me, you cry, I didn’t know what I was doing.
The cross is not simply a place of beginning, a place you leave from, a place you cherish in memory. It is, strangely enough, a place of life, of possibility, of hope. He that hung there, by God’s design and for your salvation, is not simply alpha, but omega. Not simply source, but destiny. Not simply foundation, but capstone. Not simply servant, but King.