I’ve been told that if you ever visit the city of Ystad, Sweden, it is well worth your time to stop at St. Mary’s Lutheran Church. The church in and of itself is not particularly beautiful. The architecture is nothing extraordinary. But when you go inside, there is a life-size, life-like crucifix hanging in the back. It even has real human hair mangled beneath the crown of thorns.
How did this unusual crucifix come to hang in a Swedish Lutheran church? Well, it seems that in the early 1700’s, the King of Sweden paid an unexpected visit to the church. When the pastor saw the king in attendance, he was overwhelmed. Ignoring the text for that Sunday, he replaced it with a long and glorious tribute to the king.
Soon afterward the church received a gift from the king. It was the crucifix. With it came this command: “Hang this within the church so that whoever stands in the pulpit will be reminded of his proper subject.” And so every pastor who stands in that pulpit of St. Mary’s Lutheran Church in Ystad, Sweden is forced to look at Jesus Christ crucified as he preaches his sermons.
What a great reminder for us! In our churches, we can become so distracted by overflowing toilets, ladies’ socials and bake sales that we lose focus of why we are here.
In our world, we can become so enamored with our jobs, our homes and our iPhones that we lose focus of what is really important. We can easily start to focus on ourselves, on all the good things we do and on how we try to be good people. We can so easily forget the real reason why we are going to heaven.
Like the preacher in Ystad, Sweden, we all need a focal point to remind us what is really important. That focal point is Jesus Christ crucified. As a church, we exist because of Jesus Christ crucified. We exist to share the good news about Jesus Christ crucified with everyone we can.
Never forget: this world is passing away. Life is short. We need to be ready for what comes next. And how do we get ready? Jesus Christ crucified.
I am not going to heaven because of what I do. The price of heaven is perfection and I am definitely not perfect. I haven’t earned heaven. Jesus earned it for me with his perfect life of love and horrific death on the cross. The only reason I am going to heaven is because of Jesus Christ crucified.
Everyone needs a focal point. May God help us keep Jesus Christ crucified as the focal point of our lives and churches.
“For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.”
(1 Corinthians 2:2)