One of the most important symbols associated with the Christian faith is the cross. Whenever I enter a sanctuary, I look first for the cross. I am always disappointed when there is no cross, or when the cross does not hold a significant place in the architecture of the sanctuary. That cannot be said of First Church. The cross is dramatically placed above the organ pipes, high and at the center of our view of the chancel.
When you look closely at our sanctuary cross you notice it has a more complicated design than a typical sanctuary cross. You can see four layers to the cross and not all four layers are crosses. Looking from the back to the front, the first layer is not a cross at all but a white star. The next layer is wood which is in the shape of the star but certainly suggests the cross. The next layer is gold and outlines the top layer, the empty wooden cross.
These layers can be understood as telling the story of Christ. The star represents God’s incarnation as a man. It reminds us of Christmas and the story of the birth of Christ. The next wooden layer on top of the star is not quite a cross but begins to bridge the gap from incarnation to the cross. The use of wood suggests a communion table representative of the new covenant in Christ. It is through the sacrament of communion that we encounter and remember the meaning of Christ’s sacrifice for us, erasing our sins before God.
By putting the empty cross in relief, the brilliant gold layer leads us to the empty cross. The gold is almost pushing out from the sides of the cross defining the shape of the cross above it. This most dramatic part of the piece represents the moment of resurrection, when the gates of heaven are opened to humankind because of Christ’s victory over death. The empty cross stands forever as the symbol of the culmination of Christ’s redeeming work.
The emptiness reminds us not only of Christ’s death and resurrection, but also that the work is done. We come to the cross empty, there is nothing we need to do to receive the gift of grace as represented in this cross. From incarnation to resurrection, the work is God’s alone. We are called to worship our God and Savior and proclaim His story to the world.
The call to worship and proclamation is represented in the placement of the cross among the organ pipes. The organ is the primary instrument we use to aid us in our musical worship of God. The pipes reach up to the cross as our worship reaches up to the heavens. The trumpet pipes extending out from the base of the cross call us to remember the Great Commission, to proclaim the Word of God and the story of His amazing grace boldly to the nations.
This cross sculpture and organ installation work together to represent the very core of who we are as Christians. I hope you will remember the story of redemption through the cross, and our call to worship and proclaim Him, each time you enter our sanctuary.
By Jeff Faux
Director of Sacred Arts