Pillar Journal
- A seasonal journal produced by Pillar Church in Holland, MI to guide us through the Christian year.
Pillar Journal

A Letter: Chris De Vos


A Cruciform Life

Dear Pillar,

One Good Friday a church I once pastored decided to worship using a liturgy modeled after the stations of the cross. Two people dressed in black carried a cross from one position in the sanctuary to the next while various members of the congregation read gospel passages describing key moments in Jesus’ journey to the cross. The pair walked silently, mysteriously and purposefully — from the scene where Jesus was condemned to the moment he took up his cross; from the placing of his cross on Simon’s shoulder to his encounter with the weeping women of Jerusalem; from the stripping of his garments to the nailing of his body to the cross; from his dying to his placement in the tomb. It was a contemplative and provocative worship. We all left with a sense of the drama and power of Christ’s passion.

What we didn’t know at the time was that one of those cross-carriers would soon be diagnosed with terminal ovarian cancer. She was a gracious and humble person, undeserving of such an oppressive indictment on her life. Within a year she died. But she died with passionate faith. Jesus’ words to the weeping women of Jerusalem became her words: “…do not weep for me, weep for yourselves and for your children…For if men do these things when the tree is green, what will happen when it is dry?”

Over the course of the year in which she died I was privileged to have many conversations with her. She suffered bouts of nausea and anger. There were questions I dared not attempt to answer. But a formidable hope accompanied her through each station of her cross. Her life became cruciform. And she seemed to be saying to the rest of us, “Do not weep for me, weep for yourselves and for your children. For if this can happen when the tree is green, what will happen when it is dry?” She did not invite our pity, she evoked Christ’s passion.

The late Robert Webber once suggested that the Bible suggests one central sacrament: the cruciform life. The life shaped and filled with the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ is a holy sign for the world. That kind of life communicates the Good News of Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection.

One of the most puzzling and powerful beliefs of Christianity is that the innocent death of Jesus overcame the power of sin, death and evil. Human cleverness and power are constantly employed to keep evil and suffering at bay, but God gave himself over to death in order to defeat it. Christians believe that Jesus’ death was redemptive. For the resurrection affirms a new life beyond death for all who are in Christ. “If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all people,” wrote the apostle Paul, “but Christ has been raised from the dead.”

Lent invites us into the cruciform hope of Jesus Christ. This year the journey is arduous. Injustice and suffering are palpable on the faces of earthquake rescue workers in Turkey. And the stations are set in the labyrinth of our world economy where shadows are cast from Africa to Honduras, from tech company layoffs to teacher shortages. The green tree of our economy looks barren one moment and overripe the next.

The time is right for Christ’s passion to offer grace, offer the love of God. Our current suffering could be just the opportunity we need for an encounter with a suffering God and the life beyond death that God offers us in Jesus Christ. Like it or not, Christ’s followers are the hope that walks through our moment’s stations of the cross — hope for the promised future of God, hope for the final defeat of cancer, hope for an end to economic downturns, and hope for a life that is so new that we bend toward it like green grass blades to sunlight.

By Pastor Chris De Vos

Share a Story. Share a Question.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

There are currently no stories or questions. Why don't you kick things off?