Preaching the Cross Today

Hope Amid the Broken
Signposts, by N. T. Wright

„This will be a Lent like no other. Last Lent we plunged into our first
lockdown, unimaginable until it was forced upon us. We then supposed,
as we struggled through Easter and Pentecost, that it couldn’t last much
longer. But here we are again – and with horrible statistics of suffering and

And we turn, perhaps even more urgently, to the gospel message, the
announcement of good news through the horror of Jesus’ death, in the
dogged hope that it will speak afresh to us at such a time as this. The
multiple sorrows and frustrations of this last year – bereavement,
prolonged sickness, and a cold, nagging fear – sustain that sense of an
urgent context. If we can’t preach the cross at a time like this, when can

But the meaning of Jesus’ death is vast and dark. Preaching about it is
never easy. It shouldn’t be. If we imagine we can capture the cross in a
simple formula, that just shows we haven’t caught up with the full biblical
picture in which many strands come rushing together. That itself presents
an ongoing challenge to the preacher or teacher, on top of the struggle we
all now face, that of speaking into a microphone in a room by ourselves –
as I’m doing now – rather than making real eye contact with our hearers.

After all, the meaning of the cross is about the outflowing, generous love
of God; so the act of communicating that message, whether in the pulpit
or in pastoral conversation, ought itself to embody that love through direct
personal communication, rather than through cameras and screens.

But we are where we are. In this dark time, we must pray that the light which
shines from the cross will enable us to find our way into what we need to
say, and what our congregations need to hear.
I said just now that many strands converge in the biblical picture of the
cross. The story of Jesus, focused particularly on his death and
resurrection, is like a great, deep river into which many different streams
have flowed, carrying the silt and smell of their own particular journeys.
The primary texts are the four gospels themselves, and they don’t give us
a theory, they give us a story.


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