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The Rev. Dr. William H. Willimon The Rev. Dr. William H. Willimon

The Rev. Dr. William H. Willimon is Professor of the Practice of Christian Ministry at The Divinity School, Duke University. He retired after serving eight years as Bishop of the North Alabama Conference of The United Methodist Church.

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Bishop Will Willimon: The Cross: The Measure of Love

March 20, 2012

Abingdon Press is publishing The Best of Will Willimon this year, a collection of some of my writing from Abingdon. As we move through Lent, season of the cross, I'm sharing some of these selections related to the theme of the cross.

To tell the truth, Lord Jesus, we weren't that close to your cross when the soldiers nailed you to the wood and hoisted you up over Golgotha. But from where we were standing, at a safe distance, it looked to us like your arms were extended just about as far as they could go. It made us very uncomfortable to see your arms stretched out so very wide.

Yet you tended to do that, even before you got your cross. Seeing you hanging there, arms in such unnatural embrace, we recalled how troublesome was your reach throughout your ministry, a real pain. First the dirty, common fisherfolk whom you called to abandon their families and follow you, then the tax collectors, the whores, the lepers, the stumbling blind and crawling lame, cruel Roman soldiers, bleeding women, clergy, even corpses, all responding to your touch, all caught within your grasp. A Savior can't reach that far and not expect to be punished for it. And on Friday, God knows you paid dearly for your barrier-breaking, boundary-bursting reach.

You overreached.

How wide is your reach? See, even now, the nails through your hands cannot constrain you. You stoop, strain, bend, and grab, reaching down all the way to hell itself, determined to gather, to reap, to have all us sinners, dead or alive, no matter what the sin, all in your clutch, all in your embrace.

We gather here, at the foot of your cross as those who have been grabbed, got hold of, by a Lord whose reach knows no bounds. So this day, this fateful Friday, we warn those not yet reached-Hitler, Stalin, the woman sitting next to us today on the bus, the man who yesterday cut us off in traffic and grinned about it, the one who so wronged me that I hate him and wish he were not, the Palestinian who strapped the plastic explosive to herself and pulled the cord hoping to take some Jewish children with her-beware. Take it from us sinners: His reach is without bounds, His embrace wide, determined and irresistible. He will have you, if He has to die trying. Amen.

[Taken with permission from the Bishop's Blog, North Alabama Conference, United Methodist Church]


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