March 18 – When I Survey


For LPC people the photo depicts a place that is familiar. For those who are not a part of the worshiping community at Langhorne Presbyterian Church, this is our Sanctuary. We gather here on the Lord’s Day for worship; to hear the Word preached, to receive the Sacraments, and to offer our prayers before the throne of grace, and our praise in hymns and psalms and spiritual songs. In this place promises have been made that bind a man and a woman to a life of faithful marriage, our children have been baptized here, and, having traveled with loved ones through the valley of the shadow of death, we have declared our sure and certain hope of the resurrection to eternal life through our Lord Jesus Christ. This is an important place for us.

The room is absolutely dominated by the towering cross at the back of the chancel. There is nothing subtle or somehow artistic about it. It is unavoidable. You cannot not notice it.

Our sanctuary is 54 years old and the cross was part of its original construction. I have never asked those who may have been member then – I think some of them are still around – why they chose that design. Why not something smaller, to scale; maybe a carved Celtic cross? Why this mass of a cross you cannot ignore?

My guess is that the answer is that – it is a cross you cannot ignore.

As we worship during Holy Week, it will be good for us that we cannot ignore the cross. As we sing our loud Hosannas! on Palm Sunday, the cross will remind us that the One who comes in the name of the Lord comes to be betrayed into the hands of sinners. We will pray that might be kept from such treachery.

On Maundy Thursday, all who are able climb the chancel steps in groups of twelve or so and surround the Table as they share the loaf and the cup, this simple feast of the people of God. Rightly so, the Table stands at the foot of the towering cross, its shadow unavoidable that night so different than all other nights.

This year when the pilgrims from the community arrive at LPC on the Good Friday Cross Walk, we will open all the front doors of the Sanctuary and invite them to consider the hulking cross for just a moment.

Easter Sunday always begins with our shortest and best call to worship: “He is risen!” we say, and the people shout back, “He is risen indeed!” From that call to worship to the last Amen of the Hallelujah Chorus, the empty cross will remind us that death is defeated, life the victor.

54 years ago when they built the Sanctuary at LPC they decided against subtlety or artistry. They designed a room that would be overwhelmed by the towering cross at the back of the chancel. It was a good decision. We will avoid the cross if we are able to do so. Our Sanctuary will permit no such treachery.

Right now if possible, or later when you are in a quiet place, why not open this file in your browser. Listen to the old hymn, hauntingly beautiful, and ponder, survey, the wondrous cross on which the Prince of Glory died:

When I Survey the Wondrous Cross

When I survey the wondrous cross
on which the Prince of glory died,
my richest gain I count but loss,
and pour contempt on all my pride.

Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast
save in the death of Christ, my God!
All the vain things that charm me most,
I sacrifice them through his blood.

See, from his head, his hands, his feet,
sorrow and love flow mingled down.
Did e’er such love and sorrow meet,
or thorns compose so rich a crown?

Were the whole realm of nature mine,
that were a present far too small.
Love so amazing, so divine,
demands my soul, my life, my all.

See you Sunday