The Cross as Our Ringtone: Reflections on Romans 13:8-14

(Rom. 5:8).

"To this end Christ died and lived again, so that he might be Lord of both the dead and the living" (Rom. 14:9).

Whenever I think of the cross in relation to the theme of waking up, my mind goes back to an excerpt from the gnostic Gospel of Peter I read in a seminary class on early Church History. The Gospel of Peter was written around 150 C.E. and ascribed to the Apostle Peter. It describes the events surrounding the end of Jesus' life, including his trial, crucifixion, burial, and resurrection. It contains many similarities with the New Testament Gospels including the basic outline of the end of Jesus' life with his trial, crucifixion, burial, and resurrection. It also contains a number of additions including, most notably, a description of the actual resurrection event with two giant angels, a super-sized Jesus, and a talking cross emerging from the empty tomb. 

In this account, a voice from heaven addresses the cross: "Thou has preached to them that sleep." To which the cross responds by saying, "Yes!"

Clearly this is an embellishment of simpler empty tomb and resurrection accounts in the New Testament Gospels, an attempt, like some other Gnostic gospels, to fill in the gaps in the events surrounding Jesus' life.

But the notion of a cross that preaches to those that sleep, the cross as our wake-up ringtone, has contemporary impact. In the context of the resurrection, Jesus' sufferings on the cross are a wakeup call to us to notice the sufferings of others and to accept the claim of love as the highest claim on our lives, now and always: the claim of love for God and love of neighbor.

What's Your Ringtone?

Whatever our day may hold each morning, the love of God shown to us in Jesus' death and ongoing life is our ringtone. It is melodic, urgent, heartbreaking, and heart-mending. It can see us through the things that delight us and the things we dread—which is a good thing, because, as Paul points out, "Now is the moment for us to awake from sleep!" (Rom. 13: 11).

9/4/2014 4:00:00 AM
Alyce McKenzie
About Alyce McKenzie
Alyce M. McKenzie is the George W. and Nell Ayers Le Van Professor of Preaching and Worship at Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University.