“And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
Matthew 28:20b, NRSV
The cross you see in the picture has a very special meaning to me. This cross was given to me as a parting gift in late 1997 by the people of St. Mary’s church back in Grossenkneten, Germany. I had served that congregation as a ‘pastor in residence’ for more than a year. And I had grown fond of those people. I had had a chance to get to know them, and to share in their joys and sorrows. It was hard to say good bye.
What made the parting even harder was the fact that I wouldn’t just be leaving this call to move on to the next – I was about to leave the country that was home to me, and to embark on a journey into the unknown. My family and I were moving to California, and I had no idea what my life in this new setting would be like. I ran the whole gamut of emotions, from curiosity and excitement to grief and fear.
And then, at the farewell party the people of St. Mary’s in Grossenkneten threw for me, I was handed a small package. It contained the bronze cross, just small enough to fit comfortably into my hand. The inscription on the cross says, ‘Ich bin bei euch,’ which means, ‘I am with you (plural),’, and it shows Jesus breaking bread with two disciples.
I was immensely touched by this gift, which showed that those people I cared about cared about me as well and knew me well enough to send me on my way with this promise. ‘I am with you’ – I cannot tell you how much comfort this promise gave to me, back then, when I was about to leave life as I knew it behind. I cannot tell you how much comfort this promise has given to me ever since, when I felt lonely and homesick, when things were tough, when I felt disoriented.
God walks alongside us, no matter, where we go. God will not abandon us, no matter, what we do. The cross is the symbol for God’s amazing love for us. A love which also holds the promise of God’s presence with us, always, to the end of the age, to the end of all those ‘no outlet’ roads we take in life and back.
Just as the people of the congregation back in Germany reminded me of this truth, I want to remind you today: God is with you. And neither death nor life nor anything in heaven and on earth will ever separate you from the love of God in Christ Jesus, our Lord.
This week, I invite you to lay down a rock at the foot of the cross with a prayer of thanksgiving: whom or what has God sent into your life in order to remind you of God’s presence? How could you potentially be the fulfillment of the promise, ‘I am with you,’ to someone who needs God’s presence in their life?
And may you always remember, as you continue your journey through the wilderness of Lent, and the wilderness of life, that God is with you, every step of the way.
This post is also available in: German