In 1964 General Mills food company introduced a cereal with toasted oat pieces and multi-colored marshmallow shapes, which had a leprechaun mascot named “Lucky.” The commercials captured my ten-year old mind, so what did I ask for every time we went to the local Piggly Wiggly? Lucky Charms! As luck would have it, for my mom not me, I didn’t like it nearly as much as the commercials made me think I would. The whole soggy marshmallow thing didn’t sit well with me. I think I ate maybe 1/3 of the box before I went back to Cherrios.
Playing golf last week in my senior men’s golf association, I watched a 17 handicap make an eagle from some 40 yards of the green. The man hit a good shot, and I’m not saying it doesn’t happen, but golf has its own trite sayings about things like this. When a shot from 40 yards runs half that distance on the ground, twisting, turning, bouncing and rolling at least a third of the way, “I’d rather be lucky than good sometimes,” is one phrase appropriately said in this case. Or, as my uncle Wylie used to say, “Even a blind squirrel finds a nut on occasion,” also applies. Fortune smiles on me. Lady luck is nowhere to be found. Karma gets you every time. Pick your favorite “Luck” phrase.
Which brings me to the Cross. I know people who place crosses in every room of their house, thinking it will bring them good luck. They treat the cross like a talisman. A talisman is an object which someone believes contains magical properties providing good luck for the one who posses it, or offers protection from evil or harm. Whether worn around your neck or as an ankle bracelet, the cross is not a talisman. Whether made of metal or wood, horseshoe nails wrapped in colored wire, crystal or gold, the cross is not a talisman.
Jesus never said, “after I’m gone, if you just wear a cross around your neck, or have one tattooed on your forearm, you will be good to go.” Don’t get me wrong, I think more Christians should capture the essence of what the cross means for them personally, but I can tell you it isn’t “good luck.” The cross represents self-sacrifice. Self-sacrifice often involves pain, almost 100% of the time in some form. By definition it means putting your needs last, and someone or many someone’s needs way ahead of your own. But more specifically, in this case, the cross means DEATH. We’ve seen the instrument of Jesus’ death desecrated or elevated in countless ways that have nothing to do with His saving grace, offered in His sacrifice for our sin.
Is it just blind or dumb luck that after this life is over we are afforded heaven? No! Why do so many people then approach God as though He were a heavenly slot machine? We pray for stuff we don’t need, or stuff we know God probably doesn’t want us to have, mix it all together and at the end invoke Jesus’ name, then cross ourselves… and expect God to deliver. Was this how Jesus taught us to pray? I think that prayer goes something like this:
Our Father in heaven, Your name be honored as holy.
Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And do not bring us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.
Matthew 6:9-13 [HCSB]
This prayer has nothing to do with luck. You can’t just say it once a day, every week in worship, or once in awhile we’re your facing doubt and darkness, using it like some incantation to bring instant prosperity or protection to your life. The words must MEAN something. The words must ring true to you. So true that you base your whole life on the reality of God’s sovereignty, and trust Him implicitly to provide your every need. Needs that He deems are needs, and not our fanciful desire for worldly possessions or successes.
I’ll say it one more time.
The Cross is not a talisman.