Summary: Sometimes it takes being nailed to our crosses of life before we can say, Lord, remember me.
“Converted on a Cross”
By: Rev. Kenneth Emerson Sauer, Pastor of Parkview United Methodist Church, Newport News, VA
I would imagine we all know the song: “Tie A Yellow Ribbon Round the Old Oak Tree.”
It’s a ballad about a prisoner who had been released from jail.
Not sure whether his wife still loved him or wanted him home, he wrote her and said, “Tie a yellow ribbon around the old oak tree and I’ll know I’m welcome home when I see it. If it’s not there, I’ll keep going.”
Well, many of you probably know what happened.
The ex-convict was on a bus when he passed the house.
And what did he see but a hundred yellow ribbons tied around the tree.
In a sense, this is how God works.
Many of us may not feel that God would want to welcome us into His kingdom.
We know ourselves.
We know our sins.
We know how far short we fall.
Not sure that God still loves us and wants us, we might very well ask God for a sign.
And if we don’t see that sign, we’ll keep going.
But that sign is there for everyone of us!
God has tied a scarlet ribbon around an old Cross tree. And He says to all of us: “You can come home now!”
How many times have we heard other Christians talk about their conversion…which means ‘the turning’ of a soul from sin to God?
Many of us can tell others with ecstatic joy both the date and the place.
I like to think of it as that gap in life that is bridged by Jesus, the Son of God.
It is a historic occasion, each conversion.
In John Chapter 3, Jesus tells a Pharisee named Nicodemus, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again…Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’”
And then He goes on to say something quite fascinating…
… “The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”
It is God’s timing and God’s initiative that decides when we are converted.
I believe that we are all given an opportunity, to come face to face with the truth…
…we are sinners in need of God’s grace…
…and God’s grace is available to us—free of charge through what Christ did on the Cross.
Of course, we were created with the divine gift of free-choice.
We don’t have to accept God’s invitation to ‘come home’, we can keep on going in the direction we have always been going.
We can choose to ignore the scarlet ribbon around the old Cross tree.
And the people of Jesus’ day were no different.
In this morning’s Gospel Lesson we are told that a crowd had gathered atop Golgotha to witness Rome’s grizzliest handiwork.
The attraction that had drawn them from their homes, their jobs, was a crucifixion.
Three men criminally convicted and condemned were tied and nailed to rough wooden crosses…
…and “The people stood watching.”
Jesus of Nazareth was dying.
He was the man in the middle.
He was the preacher, the miracle worker, the prophet.
He was the Son of God, the Savior.
And He was dying before the eyes of the crowd.
The indifferent, the self-righteous, those who could not understand; they were all their that day.
But there was another person watching atop Golgotha that day.
He was a common criminal.
He was dying on a cross just like Jesus, but unlike many in the crowd of onlookers, this criminal was the one who understood what God was doing at Calvary.
“One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at” Jesus: “Aren’t you the Christ? Save yourself and us!”
“But the other criminal rebuked him.
‘Don’t you fear God,’ he said, ‘since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.’”
“Then he said, ‘Jesus remember me when you come into your kingdom.’”
“Jesus answered him, ‘I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.’”
Sometimes it takes being nailed to our crosses of life before we are able to understand the wind of the Holy Spirit, and can say, Lord, remember me.
There isn’t one of us who don’t have a cross or many crosses to bear in this life.
There isn’t one of us who do not have some flaw in our nature…
…some ‘thorn in the flesh’…
…some secret shame…