Focusing on Christ Crucified

Bethany Woelmer

The camera lens moves back and forth, in and out, adjusting with every scene to produce a clear image that portrays a picture of what is being captured. It focuses on the object, channeling everything that it has been made to be into that one picture. It is built with a need for a focus, because without it, the picture would always be blurry.

Our lives are filled with much blurriness. It is as if life is a camera, always losing its focus, trying to find more answers, failing to capture everything at once, bringing in much clutter in a frame that is still seeking focus. Sin blurs our vision of truth, gives us false images of redemption, and presents to us a raw image of our Old Adam. No edits, no real focus, no clear picture of salvation. We are poor, miserable sinners, daily in need of the forgiveness that only Christ can give. We are blurred in sin, daily in need of the focus found on the cross.

My view of Higher Things this past conference season was from the camera. Between the worship services, plenary sectionals, breakaway sectionals, and even the entertainment, I saw it all. I saw the called and ordained servants of God's Word preaching Christ crucified for sinners, the wonderful choir and instrumentalists accompanying the music of our faith, the fellowship of believers around prayer, the a cappella singing of "Holy, Holy, Holy" during the plenary session, and the list goes on. I moved my camera in every direction to capture the pictures of life in the Church, and at the end of every step, there was a need to push the button for focus, otherwise the picture would not be clear.

The image of focusing made me think about what the true focus is in the Christian's life. When everything is blurry, how do we focus? When everything is cluttered with sin, where do we "zoom in" to find the object of our strength? When we look and find our brokenness within us, where do we turn?

As I video-recorded Matins, I looked around the church and noticed that the slanted pillars meet in the center at one point at the top. From that point hung the crucifix, the focus of the church, the sign of life and salvation, the clearness to our mess of sin. I took advantage of the opportunity of this crucifix on display by turning the camera toward it during the live-streaming of Matins and the Divine Service. When we sang the "Venite," we focused on "the rock of our salvation." When we sang the "Te Deum," we focused on the crucifixion of Christ as stated in the middle of the canticle, proclaiming His victory against the "sharpness of death." When we sang "This is the Feast," we sang about the "Lamb who was slain" as we joined in the "hymn of all creation." This Lamb, who "takes away the sin of the world," as proclaimed in the "Agnus Dei," gives us peace. And finally, as we sang in the closing hymn, "We Praise You and Acknowledge You, O God," we proclaimed, "You, Christ, are King of glory, the everlasting Son, yet You, with boundless love, sought to rescue everyone; You laid aside Your glory, were born of virgin's womb, were crucified for us and were placed into a tomb; Then by Your resurrection You won for us reprieve. You opened heaven's kingdom to all who would believe."

Without the focus of Christ, we have nowhere to turn. We are blind in sin, always squinting to find a way to fix this impediment, yet God has brought us from death to life, from the blurriness of sin to the focus of His Son, and from our lost and fallen nature to a forgiven sinner in Christ. With one click of a button, the picture focuses into clarity; so also with one word, God came into the world as the light of our salvation. We proclaim this truth and praise Him with all the heavenly host, singing "Te Deum Laudamus" in unending songs of faith as we live in His grace.

Bethany Woelmer is from Faith Lutheran in Plano, TX, and is pursuing a Master's degree in church music at the University of Kansas this fall.

Created: August 23rd, 2015