The Ground Zero Cross – A Symbol of Reconciliation

Colossians 1:20 “It pleased the Father that by Jesus Christ all things are reconciled to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross.”

Colossae, with its mixed population of Gentiles and Jews, was plagued with pagan mysticism and Jewish legalism. Paul wrote this letter to the church to explain the supremacy of Jesus Christ as the second Member of the Trinity, who was sent by God the Father to make peace between God and humanity through His voluntary death on the Cross. As our verse this week explains, God the Father was pleased that all of mankind could now be “reconciled”. What does Paul mean by “reconciled”?

This week marks the 18th anniversary of 9/11. Many young people under age 18 do not understand the story of 9/11. One of the most incredible stories to come out of America’s greatest terrorist attack is the “Ground Zero Cross.” I her 2011 article, Sally Jenkins explains the impact of the cross at Ground Zero.

“The shape was oddly identifiable in the blasted wreckage of the World Trade Center, standing upright amid beams bent like fork tines and jagged, pagan-seeming tridents. A grief-exhausted excavator named Frank Silecchia found it on Sept. 13, 2001, two days after the terrorist attacks. A few days later, he spoke to a Franciscan priest named Father Brian Jordan, who was blessing remains at Ground Zero.

‘Father, you want to see God’s House?’ he asked. ‘Look over there.’ Father Brian peered through the fields of shredded metal. ‘What am I looking for?’ Silecchia replied, ‘Just keep looking, Father, and see what you see.’ ‘Oh my God,’ Father Brian said. ‘I see it.’ As Father Brian stared, other rescue workers gathered around him. There was a long moment of silence… Against seeming insuperable odds, a 17-foot-long crossbeam, weighing at least two tons, was thrust at a vertical angle in the hellish wasteland. Like a cross.

Father Brian persuaded city officials to allow volunteer union laborers to lift it out of the wreckage by crane and mount it on a concrete pedestal. Each week, Father Brian held services there. He became the chaplain of the hard hats. Whenever crews working to find the dead needed a blessing or a prayer, Father Brian would offer it. Sometimes victims’ families came to pray. The congregations grew from 25 to 300.

Once tattoo artist Pete Dutro cleaned his store, MacDougal Street Tattoo Co., of ash, he went to Ground Zero. He decided to help in the only way he knew: He offered free tattoos to the guys working there. He started with a few cops and firefighters, who came for small sticker tattoos of American flags or names of the fallen. Then they came in droves, asking for something else. ‘We started doing the cross,’ Dutro says.

He etched at least 1,000 crosses into various bodies. He did 10 or 12 a day, 7 days a week. While Dutro inked their limbs, he listened to stories of where they were, who they lost. He was their therapist, their confessor. ‘They wanted to make sure they never forget,’ he says. ‘It was a physical manifestation of the pain that they went through. Indelible.’ Eventually, the demand for cross tattoos ebbed. But it took a while.

Throughout the long recovery effort, the cross stood at Ground Zero. For 10 months, Father Brian conducted services there every Sunday. He performed Christmas Mass, Mother’s Day Mass, Father’s Day Mass. In 2006, construction began, and to make way for it, the cross was moved temporarily to St. Peter’s Church. it was taken back to Ground Zero for permanent installation. Once again, Father Brian blessed it.

By this time, it had acquired a steel plaque, affixed by a welder. ‘The Cross at Ground Zero — founded September 13, 2001; Blessed October 4, 2001; Temporarily relocated October 15, 2006; Will return to WTC Museum, a sign of comfort for all.’” Comfort – from a metal cross? How? It’s called reconciliation.

Paul’s use of the word reconciliation describes God’s movement toward humanity to end separation of God from us. Isaiah 59:2 explains what caused this separation:

Your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden His face from you so that He does not hear.

As RC Sproul says, “Radical repair was needed in order for God to again show His love for people. This radical repair came in Christ’s death on the cross. God was willing to count our trespasses against Christ, rather than against us.” The “Ground Zero Cross” has become a symbol of comfort – the peace with God achieved by Jesus Christ for our sakes, at the Cross. For now, anyone can come to God based on the merits of Jesus Christ, to be freely forgiven of their sin and welcomed into God’s eternal family.

The Evidence of Faith’s Substance – Article #364

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