This past Sunday I preached in my sermon about leaving our sin and sinful nature under the nails of Christ's cross. I think sometimes as Christians we have a hard time feeling like we truly have "new life" in Christ, and I think a lot of that is because we still see ourselves as trapped by sin. We think Christ's death, for whatever reason, wasn't quite enough to set us free from sin. Colossians 2-3 is the apostle Paul's response to that kind of thinking.
It has been interesting how that message has preached. Since Sunday morning's service ended, I have had several conversations with people who have talked about how much they needed that message this past Sunday, that there were things that they realized they needed to put under the nails of the cross and leave there.
Sunday afternoon, I had a chance to preach at one of the local independent living homes. I was going to preach a different message, but ultimately decided to preach the sermon I had preached Sunday morning. Following the afternoon service, a lady came up to me and began to share an experience that had happened soon after she had moved into the independent living center a year earlier. As she listened to me, she realized that she was still carrying the hurt and anger from that experience. She realized that she was a new person in Christ, and it was time to leave the pain of that experience under his nails. I was so honored to be able to talk with her and share a few moments with her rejoicing in what God was doing in her life.
During the Sunday morning service, we had invited folks to write down one act or feeling that needed to be left under the nails of Christ, one thing that was keeping them from embracing the forgiveness and hope of new life in Christ. Then everyone brought their pieces of paper to the front and put them on nails, symbolizing their willingness to leave in the newness of life in Christ. After the service, there was an interesting logistical question: what to do with the pieces of paper. I had committed to the church that no one else would see or read them, including me.
I decided to take a Leviticus 16 approach. I took the pieces of paper off the cross along with the nails, leaving the nails going through the stack. I was very careful to make sure I did not see anything written on any of the pieces of paper. I put them in the bag and decided I would take them somewhere far away from our church and our community to leave them where they could not be brought back to us. The location, as it turned out, was beside a river that I discovered yesterday (not even in our county, I might add). When I found the right spot, I dug a hole in the ground, took the stacks of paper still under the nails out of the bag, and placed them in the ground and covered the hole. As I walked to the site, I was listening to the song "Leave It There" by the Gaither Vocal Band on my iPod. After I was finished digging, I took off the iPod earphones and spent time praying asking God to remove the stain and guilt of the acts and deeds on those pieces of paper from our church so that we could indeed have new abundant life. Suddenly, as I prayed, a wind blew across the waters of the river, and I was suddenly reminded of Genesis 1, when the Spirit of God moved across the face of the deep as a mighty wind. From that, God made a new creation. That image became my prayer: God, may your Spirit move across our lives and make in us a new creation.
I have been amazed this week at how God continues to preach to me and to others.