As we continue to move through the season of Easter, encourage your youth discover the real power of the cross through this creative activity.
Last Sunday night I invited our youth to take some time to consider the importance of the cross to how we live out our faith today. This symbol is ubiquitous in Christianity but it's meaning can be complex and challenging. How can a symbol of Roman imperial torture and oppression also be a symbol of the new life and freedom we find in God's love?
We began by looking at Paul's message to the Church in Corinth:
The Message that points to Christ on the Cross seems like sheer silliness to those hell-bent on destruction, but for those on the way of salvation it makes perfect sense. This is the way God works, and most powerfully as it turns out. It's written, I'll turn conventional wisdom on its head, I'll expose so-called experts as crackpots.
While some clamor for miraculous demonstrations and others go in for philosophical wisdom, we go right on proclaiming Christ, the Crucified. Some treat this like an anti-miracle—and others pass it off as absurd. But to us who are personally called by God himself—both Jews and Greeks—Christ is God's ultimate miracle and wisdom all wrapped up in one. Human wisdom is so tinny, so impotent, next to the seeming absurdity of God. Human strength can't begin to compete with God's "weakness."
Take a good look, friends, at who you were when you got called into this life. I don't see many of "the brightest and the best" among you, not many influential, not many from high-society families. Isn't it obvious that God deliberately chose men and women that the culture overlooks and exploits and abuses, chose these "nobodies" to expose the hollow pretensions of the "somebodies"? (1 Cor 1: 18-31 adapted from The Message Bible)
We discussed why the idea of the cross, the idea of the Christian story ending with Jesus dying instead of defeating his enemies, is foolishness to the world yet also declares the wisdom of God's way. I asked the youth to consider what ultimately became of the "wisdom" of the Roman Empire and it's way of oppression and violence. One student replied "They only exist in history books now." And yet Christ's message of peace and love continues on. In fact, every oppressive empire in the history of the world has eventually fallen away while the foolishness of the cross -- sacrifice, mercy, compassion -- lives on.
I then asked the youth to work in small groups to make two lists: things the world values and things God values. I asked them to consider that the cross, once a symbol of tyranny and terror, now represents the things God values. In essence, we as Christians have adopted this symbol of violence and reclaimed it as a symbol of God's peace. In fact, many artists have done just that (see right).
Then came the challenge: using various art supplies, reclaim the cross by creating your own design for the cross that somehow communicates those things you believe that God values.
This is a really great open-ended project as youth can approach it however they want. Some groups might want to draw an image while others may create a sculpture. Some might use words while others use only symbols. We gave the youth time to create in their groups and then invited them to share their efforts with everyone. Most importantly, we reminded them that for most of the world, we are the "living cross." We tell the real story of the cross each day in the way that they live in the world and in the way they care for others.