Last Sunday we heard Jesus’ challenge, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” In my sermon I talked about what it looked like to do that. To go out into the world and live our lives by lifting high the cross and pointing others to Christ.
This past Tuesday is known as Holy Cross Day. In approximately 325 CE, Constantine was Emperor of Rome. His mother was named Helena and was a convert to Christianity. Tradition says she traveled to the Holy Land and found pieces of the actual cross that Christ was crucified on. She had that and other relics from the passion brought back to Rome. There a basilica was built to house the treasures. To make it even more authentic, dirt from Jerusalem was transported back to Rome to create the floor in the basilica. It is officially known as The Basilica of the Holy Cross in Jerusalem even though it is in Rome.
Interestingly, Constantine himself proclaimed to be a Christian although legend has it, he was actually baptized on his deathbed. He was the first Roman Emperor to ban the persecution of Christians and legalize Christianity. He had at least two churches built: The Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem and the original St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City. The Church of the Holy Sepulcher is built on the site known as Golgotha or Calvary where Jesus died on the cross and was buried nearby. I have a colleague from seminary who is a pastor of an English-speaking Lutheran congregation whose church is literally a stones throw away of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem.
Now that you have a little history on the cross of Jesus… lift high the cross my friends!