When I was in my teens, I went with a group of young people to a major theme park for a fun day of rides and shows and eating things that were bad for me. I was excited because I was finally old enough to go through the park with just my friends and no chaperone. (What were they thinking?!) We set a time to gather together for supper and the group leader pointed to a tall structure that stood out well above all the others. He said “This is our gathering spot. You can see it from anywhere in the park so you can easily make your way back.” Off we went, and it was reassuring to see the top of that building from wherever I was and know that I couldn’t get so lost that I couldn’t find my way back. Several hours later, at the appointed time, we all made our way back to our gathering place.
That was only a group of about 30 scatter-brained teenagers, but imagine trying to keep an entire nation together. That was Moses’ task in leading the nation of Israel out of Egypt.
Consider what it must have been like with 2-million plus people marching together through the desert. It was a major challenge to stay together over the many long and dusty miles. It could easily have been chaos, but God set out a plan. The Israelites were the descendants of the twelve sons of Jacob and were identified by their ancestor’s name. To minimize confusion, everyone was required to travel and camp in a certain order with their clan. So how did they find where they belonged in an ocean of people? Each tribe created a banner or standard that was unique to their own family. It was at the top of a long pole so it was visible to every family member. This is the same type of banner you’ve probably seen in battle scenes in movies. It was usually adorned with bright colors and often had bits of shiny metal so that it would sparkle and glitter in the sun. This is how every family member found their way back to their family. Imagine if you were a child in this vast company of people and you got separated from your clan, all you had to do was look up and spot your tribe’s standard and you knew where to go.
In this world, it is hard to know which way is right, there are too many distractions and detour signs along the way. If you don’t have a fixed point of reference you can easily find yourself wandering into dangerous places. Do you ever find yourself wishing there was something that could guide you to a safe haven? I know I have often prayed, “Lord just give me a landmark so I will know which way to go.” I need something that stands high above the chaos and confusion of this world. Something that will help me find the place I belong.
God has created a banner that flies high above this world. Its colors are the crimson red of Jesus’ blood and it is adorned with the glory and majesty of His Son. This standard is the cross of Christ. It is your banner to lead you to where you belong. The cross rises high above the world, standing tall and sure in the instability of our culture. You can see it from wherever you are, even in the deepest, darkest places. The cross is more than your family’s standard. It is the declaration of God’s overwhelming love for you. It is His eternal promise of salvation and everlasting life. In the cross is hope and freedom. In the cross we have light and truth. If we keep our focus on the cross, we will never be lost to the whims of the world.
Beloved, if you have wandered away and cannot find your way home, lift up your head and look for the cross—God’s banner of love. Because love is where you belong.
Holy Father, thank you for the cross which stands high and firm above the world. No matter where I go, I know that the cross will lead me back to where I belong. Help me, Lord, to keep my heart and mind focused on the cross of Christ and the love that placed it there. Amen.