Hot cross buns remind us that the cross is at the heart of Good Friday, writes the Revd Martyn Dunning.
The academic, Alister McGrath, suggests four everyday crosses can help explain why.
Imagine you’re driving on a country road at night. The headlights pick out a sign with a cross on it. That means there’s a crossroads. Here the cross means a point of meeting.
Christian faith is about coming to the cross, for the same God who made the universe meets us there.
In Jesus’ cross we recognise that he’s God humbling himself, even to death, to bring us home from the far country.
Second, picture yourself back at school. You’re doing the sum 4 + 9 = ? After much thought (remember, you’re young!) you write 4 + 9 = 12. The teacher puts a cross, which means wrong, not right.
In a similar way, the cross means we’re not right with God and need real forgiveness for real wrongdoing. Through Jesus’ suffering and death, in a way we’ll never fully comprehend, God forgives us.
The cross tells us that God’s taken the initiative in meeting us. Jesus’ suffering and death show us how far we are from God - and open the way back to him. The cross reveals the purpose and power of God to deal with human wrongdoing.
Third, imagine you’re writing a letter. You sign it and place crosses at the bottom. Crosses mean love. The cross brings home the full extent of God’s love.
It’s an astonishing thought that God loves us personally. In his love, he set out on the humiliating and costly journey to the far country to meet his lost children and bring them home.
There’s a fourth way in which we use crosses. Placing a cross against a name on a ballot paper means you’ve made a decision.
God offers us love, forgiveness and reconciliation. This needs a decision: will we respond?
God seeks admission, but we must open the door.
Picture yourself in a dark, curtained room. It’s sunny outside but the sunlight can’t enter until the curtains are opened. So it is with God’s love. Like that sunlight, it’s there, but an action is required if it’s to affect us.
Opening those curtains to let in the light is like saying ‘yes’ to God.
Two thousand years ago Jesus died on the cross, but unless we make that cross our own it remains a distant and not particularly relevant event. The great gap that separates us from the death and resurrection of Jesus is bridged by faith in order to take hold of what’s on offer.
Faith is like an empty, open hand stretched out towards God, with nothing to offer and everything to receive. Faith is the final step: we recognise the meaning of the cross, realise its relevance and then receive its benefits.
In Jesus, and through the cross, we’re met in our lostness and set on the road that leads home, which is why hot cross buns are a great reminder of what Good Friday is all about!