Processional Crucifix

On Reformation Day 2018, First Lutheran Church consecrated a new processional crucifix, which was given to the parish by an anonymous donor to the glory of God and in honor of Pastor Dutzmann’s many decades of faithful service to our Lord. The crucifix was fashioned by the renowned Lutheran artist Edward Riojas. This post is adapted from the letter that accompanied the crucifix.

The crucifix brilliantly preaches Christ crucified, as St. Paul says in his first letter to the Corinthians:

For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. (1 Corinthians 1:22–24)

Several features of this stunning piece of art are particularly worthy of comment. The corpus is solid bronze, recalling the bronze serpent that was lifted up by Moses in the desert:

And the people spoke against God and against Moses, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we loathe this worthless food.” Then the Lord sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people, so that many people of Israel died. And the people came to Moses and said, “We have sinned, for we have spoken against the Lord and against you. Pray to the Lord, that he take away the serpents from us.” So Moses prayed for the people. And the Lord said to Moses, “Make a fiery serpent and set it on a pole, and everyone who is bitten, when he sees it, shall live.” So Moses made a bronze serpent and set it on a pole. And if a serpent bit anyone, he would look at the bronze serpent and live. (Numbers 21:5–9)

To this Christ points as a foreshadowing of His Own exaltation on the cross:

And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. (John 3:14–15)

The text emblazoned on the front of the crucifix is that of the Seven Last Words of Christ as recorded by the four Evangelists. These Words show the fulfillment of prophecy in the crucifixion:

The forgiveness won by Christ on the cross:

Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing. (Luke 23:34)

Our adoption into the family of God by His work:

Today you will be with Me in paradise. (Luke 23:43)

Behold your son. Behold your mother. (John 19:26–27)

The unspeakable suffering He endured to pay for our sins:

My God, my God, why have You forsaken me? (Matthew 27:46; Mark 15:34)

The incarnation of the Second Person of the Trinity in Jesus of Nazareth:

I thirst. (John 19:28)

The completion of His work of justification:

It is finished. (John 19:30)

The undeniable fact that the eternal God Himself died on the cross for all people:

Father, into Your hands I commend My spirit. (Luke 23:46)

The glory of Christ shines most brightly in His crucifixion, as shown by the nimbus (halo) around the head of the corpus. Truly, this is the stumbling block to the Jews and folly to the Gentiles, as Christ says in talking with Nicodemus:

Are you the teacher of Israel and yet you do not understand these things? Amen, Amen, I say to you, we speak of what We know, and bear witness to what We have seen, but you do not receive our testimony. If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things? No one has ascended into heaven except He who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up,  that whoever believes in Him may have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him. (John 3:10–17)

It’s still Christmas!.“Oh come, let us adore Him!”

Posted by First Lutheran Church of Boston on Wednesday, December 26, 2018

The crucifix being processed on Christmas Day 2018

On the back of the cross is the seal of the Reformation-era Schmalkaldic League, featuring the acronym of their slogan, taken from the prophet Isaiah (40:8) and St. Peter in his first epistle (1:25): Verbum Domini manet in aeternum, “the Word of the Lord endures forever.” For the eternal Word of God died on the cross for us, and from that cross spoke His Words. This very Word of God is proclaimed in the midst of the congregation in the Gospel which endures in spite of all that the world, Satan, and our flesh can throw at it. This Word truly lasts even unto the new heavens and earth, just as He has promised.

Like all liturgical art, this magnificent piece is intended for active use in the sacred liturgy, wherein it dramatically proclaims Christ crucified, the central focus of all preaching in the Church. We rejoice that First Lutheran Church has been gifted such a wonderful, tangible confession of God’s salvation for all mankind.

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