Theology Of The Cross In Pastoral Ministry

Time and again, Cohen’s lyrics have become, for me, a kind of soundtrack for sobering life moments. And in light of recent pastoral volunteerism—while I continue to ponder the Olympiad Triumph Of The Human Spirit Festivities—I’m hearing “Hallelujah” lyric snippets afresh again.
The church where I serve as a lay pastor runs a recovery ministry of sorts and I’ve been a part of that work for about a year and a half. Last week I teamed up with other pastors and volunteers to train leaders from around the country in how to better help hurting people in their congregations. It was a spiritually and emotionally taxing week to say the least. On the last day we had an evening celebration to sing hymns together, to share stories, open mic style, of how God shows up to redeem broken lives.

And Yet, And Yet – No Leapfrogging the Cross

Story after story was about tragic depravity (whether sins committed against them or the sins they have committed.) Many of these people’s lives had been ablaze with debaucherous behaviors, addictions, self-harm, deep bitterness harbored against others and awful childhood abuses. And yet (and yet!) each of these stories were in the process of being beautifully graced with redemption. But not a one of them was a story that leap-frogged the cross to get a kind of “Your Best Life Now”.

Last week, I saw broken people aching for a better, future redemption. It’s true–those of us in Christ will indeed see resurrection where the dwelling place of God is with man. As a co-pastor friend often says, “our redemption is as certain as Christ’s resurrection”. Sometimes I wish pain wasn’t a part of the plan. But this is how God gets things done in the lives of Christians: through a lifetime of deaths and resurrections (Galatians 2:20).
God’s love causes us to reckon with a man on a cross in light of how we have sinned and how we have been sinned against. In light of the Easter season, of course we know that death is gloriously swallowed up in the resurrection. But paradox of paradoxes: life doesn’t come until after death. And death—more often than not—is long and painful. Until then…

“And even though
It all went wrong
I’ll stand before the Lord of Song
With nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah”