He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.
The cross is a paradox: at once, one of the central images of Christianity; and yet an unfathomable mystery. (This paradox is equally true of other central Christian images, such as bread and wine, and baptism. I believe that they are meant to present us with such a paradox.) At best, the Church has made use of several different ways of talking about the cross, to partially describe facets of its significance. At worst, the Church has elevated one or other particular way of talking about to cross as being the most important, or even the explanation.
Evangelical and Liberal traditions alike (though in different ways) emphasise the rational and elevate knowledge (for example, the evangelical Alpha course tells those interested in Christianity which Questions they need to be asking, and which Answers they need to arrive at; while Liberal Christianity strips the funding narrative of the faith of any elements that cannot be measured and explained by scientific enquiry: both traditions focus on ‘knowing the right things,’ often at the expense of ‘knowing in the right way,’ that is, understanding that results in transformation rather than simply information). Each tradition, in its own way, fears mystery – as being fundamentally undermining to faith…
One of the more overlooked dimensions of the cross is its place in relation to creation wider than humanity (let alone individuals). But according to Colossians 1, the cross is – somehow – key to a work of reconciliation, the scope of which takes in ‘all things.’ We need to rediscover this element…
Taken from trees of the fields
That clapped their hands in praise;
Co-opted, against its will, by men
To stretch out the hands
That moulded the earth…
Dug from the ground,
Poured into moulds,
To pierce the hands
That moulded the earth…
Brought together by men –
And reconciled by God…
Holy Week , Good Friday , the cross