When the death of Jesus began to seem just over the horizon of time, followers of Christ began to want to touch something that would seem like a physical bridge between them and that moment.
Relics begin to surface. People wanted to hold the cup that Christ held at the Last Supper. They wanted to touch the garments that Christ wore. And they hoped to hold in their own hand a splinter of the True Cross upon which Christ died. Any town that boasted possession of one of these things, or if many other kinds of physical relics from the time of Christ, could be guaranteed to be a destination for pilgrims.
What if closeness to Christ does not depend on touching the same part of the physical world that Christ touched? Jesus never hinted that we should treasure these things. But he did declare boldly that if the poor were always among us, as he said they should be, we would continue to see him in them. In their sufferings, we see the sufferings of the Christ. It is not that they are a complete representation of who Jesus is; rather, their vulnerability shows us who are more privileged something about what Jesus lived, felt, and endured when he emptied himself (Philippians 2).
Since Winnipeg Centre Vineyard came to reside at the corner of Main and Sutherland, an old cross has leaned up against the wall of our sanctuary. Ken Lewis put this cross together from an old door frame that had likely been a part of this building for over a hundred years. Ken shares that as he ran his hand over the wood and contemplated it’s rough, rustic surface, he realized that the cross of Christ was also a door.
But we do not pretend that this cross is a relic.
Every Good Friday, we carry this cross to where are people have died in the midst of violence, poverty, and addiction. We stand this cross up, usually right at the place where they suffered, and tell their story. We try to name how they are like a window into the past for us, a window into the sufferings of Jesus. There are many aspects of their story and his story that are parallel: their betrayal by friends or authorities, their physical sufferings, sometimes their relative innocence, or the reasons for which they were killed.
They are a relic, they are our piece of the cross, they are our window into the past. While we dwell in this moment of contemplation on Good Friday, we hope and pray for resurrection here and now, because we know the end of the story of Christ.