This week the Feast of Cross is celebrated in the liturgical calendar. The feast days commemorate the discovery by Saint Helena the mother of Constantine, of the cross on which Jesus was crucified; as well as the subsequent dedication of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. Most Protestant folk don't generally know about these feasts, and I only started learning about them when I began following along with the liturgical calendar and lectionary. The Lectionary text from the Gospels for Holy Cross Day, which is in most traditions celebrated on September 14 (in others on September 16), for the year 2016, is John 3:13-17.
I am including this text in my Lectionary litanies even though it is not a regular Sunday text, because it contains probably the most well-known verse in Scripture: John 3:16. If ever there were a text that should inspire and has inspired followers of Jesus to pray, it's this one. I find Eugene Peterson’s translation of it particularly compelling.
God, Creator and Lover of Humankind:
You’ve been reaching out to us since the dawn of our consciousness;
Extending connection and love,
Explaining yourself in ways each iteration of humanity could understand.
You are always convincing us of your love,
Mercifully covering our shame,
Making sacrifices to clothe our nakedness, (1)
Walking with us in the midst of our propensity for evil.
On our own we tend to choose death for ourselves
Even though you have been offering us whole and lasting life from the beginning. (2)
We still need to be convinced of your love
And of your loving nature.
We still need to look upon the person of Christ
And be reminded of what God is.
Your love reaches to the heavens.
Your faithfulness stretches to the skies. (3)
(1) Genesis 3:21
(2) “Whole and lasting life” is part of Eugene Peterson’s compelling translation of John 3:17
(3) Psalm 36:5