Friday, April 14, 2017

Reconciliation at the Foot of the Cross

Moscow Central Corps Pulpit Cloth

Central to The Salvation Army's official crest is the Cross of Christ. 
It is the symbol of God's conciliatory act, offering His grace and glory to His wayward children.

Reconciliation has been called the most beautiful word in any language. The Greek verb "katalasso" (reconciliation) does not come from the language of worship or law but rather from that of diplomacy and social relationships. In the ordinary Christian life it is often up to us to initiate and seek reconciliation. However, the Easter story is one in which the initiative was purely God’s. It's not we who reconcile ourselves with God but God who reconciles the world to Himself. Thus reconciliation is a one-sided act of peace from God to His estranged creation; God alone is the agent of reconciliation.


In our individual preparation for Easter, and as we take this time to journey through Lent, I want to take you to Moscow, in the spring of 1992. It is Easter Sunday morning and we conducted our Easter morning service in a rented thousand seat auditorium; our “worship hall” for the last several months. It was the first Easter service conducted in a Moscow, Russia Salvation Army hall in 70 years, the last one having been celebrated by my grandfather, Adjutant Otto Ljungholm. The Salvation Army was expelled from Russia in the early 1920s.


Near the front of the hall, in the shadow of a twelve-foot cross sat a girl of twelve or thirteen. By this time she had been coming to the corps regularly along with others from a nearby orphanage. As I brought the Easter message I was gripped by what seemed like the secretive, searching glances of this young girl. Her eyes darted from the cross, to me and then to a poorly dressed woman seated some distance away and back.


As the invitation was given to the congregation ‘come to Christ and be reconciled with your loving Heavenly Father’ the young girl stepped forward, with scores of others into the aisle and then she moved slowly towards the crudely constructed cross. At the same moment, the shabbily dressed woman also stood up and with determined strides approached the many already standing and kneeling at the foot of the cross. Both the woman and child moved through the crowd toward each other and, paused for a moment, just inches apart, and then somewhat awkwardly, faced each other and exchanged words.



As others continued to respond to God’s invitation these two strangers, continued their private dialogue, becoming more and more animated. Then it happened! As a thousand people watched, the woman wrapped her arms around the young girl and then lifted her up, there, right in front of the cross!! In that moment, the two were reconciled under the cross of Christ…

I later learned that the woman was a loving mother who had been unable to provide proper care for her three-year old child and had been forced to give her up to the care of others. Now, some ten years later, they stood under the cross of Christ at a Salvation Army hall in Moscow, holding each other and vowing never to separate again.


After the service, the teenage girl said to me, with tears streaming down her face: ‘A stranger hugged me, but it was my Mother.’ This is the central message of the cross. A loving parent, God, calls to us, His estranged children to come. The cross of Christ is God's eternal symbol of love offering restoration and reconciliation..


A loving stranger with nail-pierced hands, scars on His back and brow, longs to embrace us today. Pierced for our transgressions, He wants to draw you and me to His cross. A loving stranger who escaped from death’s dungeon, wants to walk with, and lead you and me into His glorious eternity.


This Easter, may we come to the cross afresh and know what it is to be truly reconciled to our Father God. May we allow God to make Calvary very real to us again and may we see victory in Christ for each one of us.


It is my prayer that this FSAOF blog bring us all closer to God the Father. Serve Him faithfully in your “calling” today and share the reconciliation story near and far...



Dr. Sven Ljungholm
Former Officer
Liverpool UK

104 comments:

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Sven.

'Lord, make Calvary real to me ... Lord make Calvary real to me ... Open my eyes to see victory in Christ for me... Lord make Calvary real to me.'

Former officer
UKT

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing Sven.

In the love of Jesus, there is all I need.
While I follow closely where my Lord may lead.
By His grace forgiven,
In His presence blessed.
In the love of Jesus, in the love of Jesus, is perfect rest!

Former Officer

Anonymous said...

Thank you for that wonderful story of reconciliation - the central message of the cross!

I was fascinated by the photos... I didn't see a single uniform being worn except by those on the platform. It must have been very daunting to move about in a city like Moscow and be the only uniformed salvationists in a city of millions...

Blessings to you for providing this "formers' " fellowship.

He is risen!

Former Officer
UK

Sven Ljungholm said...

Dear "Former; UK", there are no uniforms worn by the many people in the photos as no one had yet been enrolled. Once soldiers were enrolled, however, many soldiers wore them proudly in the work place, in school, and even when going about their private activities.

Daunting? Probably, however, to be honest we rarely had time to think about it. There were so many activities involved; official registration of The SA, securing office space and a hall, distributing hand bills to announce our presence, purchasing office equipment, and from week one, twice weekly recruit classes, and of course, "prepping" for the meetings. There were also the visits to orphanages, homes for the elderly, schools, and at the same time establishing rapport with the city and federal government. And there were the midnight "runs" from Moscow to Leningrad to pick up equipment and Bibles... I soon knew every guard at the many check points on that 220 miles stretch !

It took some seven months before there were uniformed salvationist soldier in Moscow. The first enrollment took place in March, 1992 when General Eva Burrows enrolled some 72 soldiers. An additional 200+ were enrolled over the course of the next year or so, these being added to the Moscow Central Corps' rolls and two other corps opened in that first year. Thinking back, yes, a bit daunting I suppose. However, God, the Holy Spirit prepared the way and to Him goes all glory. I count it a wonderful privilege to have served in Moscow as His grand plan was unfolding.

Hallelujah!

Blessings, Sven

Anonymous said...

Sven,

one of yesterday's comments from Words of Life says: 'Sometimes to crown the Christ is to crucify ourselves a little.'

Thank you for being prepared to do that in your ministry.

God bless you real good!

UK Territory

Anonymous said...

Thank you for adding the Commissioner's comments. Interesting reading and adds to what is becoming a regular read for me.

Active officer
USA

Sven Ljungholm said...

Thank you, "former" or "active" officer in the UK. To be honest, the only pain felt during the years in Russia and Ukraine, was the absence of our children and close friends.

Thank you for sharing the words from Words of Life. Perhaps in the near future The SA will make the readings available online... seems a natural to me. I would add it immediately to this site. However, it might impact the bottom line in that some who now pay for the book would probably turn to the online version. But then again, millions more would have the message of salvation available to them. Sounds like a far better plan to me !

Why not lobby IHQ ? Send them an email today!

Blessings, Sven

Sven Ljungholm said...

I received the below in my university email box...

"Sven, I don't like the fact that you are adding politics to your blog. I much prefer to read articles that inspire me to live my life in a Christlike way.

I liked your story on Easter in Moscow. A true perspective on reconciliation". (no name)

Generally we only share comments from people who identify themselves. In this case an exception is made simply to garner the views of other visitors to the blog.

Blessings, Sven

Anonymous said...

Sven, I find the articles and comments well balanced and respectful. Don't change a thing, and I would like to see more articles wriiten by you shared in the blog.

Your Reconciliation article should be published in The War Cry. Have you shared it with the Editor?

Active Officer
UKT

Wendy said...

I always love a good reconciliation story. I never tire of hearing them or of needing to hear another. Thanks for sharing.

Wendy Gorton Hill

P.S. I have many fond memories of your father (from our time at Irving Park) and loved your other article about him, as well.

Sven Ljungholm said...

Thank you Wendy, for your kind comments. I too have fond memories of the Irving Park Corps, and your family. I enjoyed reading portions of your blog, particularly your reflections on CTBLI ! Those were wonderful and impressionable experiences.

Thank you for taking time to add your comments. It's always a special thrill to note yet another interested visitor; makes one want to continue sharing through this medium.

Blessings, Sven

Sven Ljungholm said...

To Active Officer UK...

The article was in fact published in the USA War Cry some years ago. The blog article is an edited version of The WC article. An altered version of it, without identifying the corps or my having written the original story was published in the UK War Cry. The UK Editor had a son, an officer, also serving in Russia at the time. I never understood why he felt it necessary to remove the very personal "touch" of the story...

Blessings, Sven

Anonymous said...

How gentle is this Wounded Healer, how understanding of our pain. How gracious he is, how patient with our pride, how tolerant of our foolishnesses. He has walked our way before us and understands. Therefore we can approach him with confidence, for he knows and sees it all. He is not shocked by our sin, not repelled by our lack of love, not anxious to make us feel small. Instead he longs for each of us to reach that full height of all we can become in the strength of his power and love as they flood our beings. He has a plan for each of us and it begins at Calvary’s Cross.

Shaw Clifton, General

from the General's Easter Message; "A plan for each of us" Indeed!

Former Officer
USA East

Deborah said...

What a warm and personal story of love and healing and it's available to all of us all day every day. Thanks Sven...d

Anonymous said...

I love this story. As I picture in my imagination the scene that you painted for us and something of the whole host of emotions this Mother and Daughter must have experienced. And my response? Thank You for the cross; Thank You for the cross; Thank You for the cross my friend. For the way it still ministers to our hearts and minds today and in love connects us to our living God.

Active UKT

Anonymous said...

Powerful story on the power of love through the Cross. This story ought to be published in the War Cry to be read by a larger audience.

Former
UKT

Anonymous said...

"The cross shows us ourselves as we really are. The holiness of God, there displayed in judgement, reveal the depth of one's depravity; the love displayed confers on us a value we do not deserve, but must never despise."

John H. W. Stott
Rector Emeritus
All Souls Church
London

Wendy said...

I remember loving this article the first time I read it, Sven. I only noticed your reply in this repost (I guess I hadn't bothered to check back for a response).

Plus, what fun to see that John Stott left a comment. I had a rare chance to have tea with him when I was studying at Wheaton College.

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