Crosses in the Desert
1st Corinthians 10:1-6
Originally scheduled for January 21, 2018
For I do not want you to
be ignorant of the fact, brothers and sisters, that our ancestors
were all under the cloud and that they all passed through the sea.
They were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea. They
all ate the same spiritual food and drank the same spiritual drink;
for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and
that rock was Christ. Nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of
them; their bodies were scattered in the wilderness. Now these
things occurred as examples to keep us from setting our hearts on
evil things as they did.
(1 Corinthians 10:1-6)
The locals call it Dead Man’s Curve. It’s out in the Mojave desert.
It doesn’t look much like a dangerous railroad crossing. The road
runs along the south side of the railroad track for many miles and
then quickly crosses the tracks and runs along the north side for
many miles. The authorities have recently installed modern railroad
crossing lights — and in the process removed the plain white crosses
that used to grace the intersection. Each cross had a name on it of
someone who was loved, and was killed at this crossing. It was not
uncommon to see fresh flowers at the foot of a cross.
Every one of those crosses was a painful reminder of the death of
someone who was loved. Was it someone who was trying to race the
train to the intersection? Was it someone who just wasn’t paying
attention? The toll eventually grew so high that official warning
signs and lights have been installed. Until they were installed, the
crosses served as an unofficial warning: this place is deceptive —
Paul gives us a similar warning in First Corinthians. He makes an
interesting pair of parallels. The ancient Israelites were “baptized
into Moses” and they also consumed spiritual food and drink. These
two are parallels to the Christian faith in baptism and the Lord’s
Supper. Indeed, the ceremonial celebration of Passover is a
forerunner of communion. So we see here some parallels between them
and us. So what happened? They started well, but soon went astray
after foreign gods. One such God was a fertility goddess — which of
course involves sex. There were other gods you went to for
prosperity. Sex and prosperity, does that sound familiar today?
That’s why Paul tells us this is an example to us. Most of them
didn’t make it to the promised land because they went astray in the
We bring this up because communion is a ritual of remembrance. It is
spiritual food and drink to us. Its main purpose is to remind just
of the love that Christ gave us on the cross. We are sinners; we are
forgiven because of the blood of Christ. In that sense, communion is
meant to be a positive, uplifting experience. But note that we are
taught to examine ourselves before taking communion. That’s not an
afterthought; it’s designed into communion. You don’t want to wind
up with your bones bleaching in the desert of sin. Therefore,
examine yourself. Do you worship at the altar of sex? The altar of
money? Or worse yet, the altar of pride?
But be of good cheer — even the bones bleaching in the desert can be
raised to life. Ezekiel was sent to the dry bones to call them back
to life. Christ was sent to you that you might have eternal life.
Heed the warning signs, but remember that your Lord has conquered
both sin and death.