The Cross of Christ

This installation focuses on the cross of Christ. During the weeks leading up to Good Friday and Easter, the congregation of New Westminster Christian Reformed Church in Burnaby, British Columbia, was called to examine the cost of being Jesus’ disciple. Artist and carpenter George VanDelft created the installation, adding various things to it each week, raising it to its full height by Good Friday. The central piece is a special cross VanDelft fashioned using the letters in the name “Jesus.” The installation became a compelling part of the services, and its placement allowed it to be seen through the glass front doors of the church, beckoning all those, inside and out, to come and worship.

With the basic instructions provided, a gifted woodworker can reproduce this cross, for VanDelft is eager for others to share his vision. Churches can also use this article as inspiration for creating an installation with an existing cross and other materials.

Marianne VanDelft, George’s wife, put together a small photo book with pictures and writing to chart the display’s progress, which is the basis of this article.

Week 1

Sermon topic

“The Mark of a Disciple” (Luke 15)

This image, meant to evoke a carpenter’s workshop, shows the basic installation. It includes a hand-built sawhorse made of tree limbs, tools, and two rough pieces of wood—the makings of a cross. All the wood for this part of the installation was hauled out of a river and reclaimed. The rocks depict the ground where Jesus’ cross stood and are also the anchor for the whole display. The display is mounted onto a piece of plywood for stability, with the sawhorse nailed to the plywood.

Week 2

Sermon topic

“The True Response of a Disciple: Gratitude” (Luke 17:11-19)

A plain spruce cross is added in the background. In the following week, it will be transformed. Carpenter VanDelft incorporated a simple stand to hold the spruce cross upright.

Week 3

Sermon topic

“The Mark of a Disciple: Persistent Prayer and a Concern for Justice” (Luke 18:1-18)

The main body of a crucifixion cross, made from a tree trunk clamped to the sawhorse, is added to the display. The plain spruce cross has now become a beautiful cross bearing the name of Jesus. Viewers see different things in this cross:

  • a head in the large letter “S”
  • an outstretched hand in the letter “E”
  • a heart bleeding downward from the letter “E”
  • the shape of a shepherd’s staff

Week 4

Sermon topic

“The True Response of a Disciple: True Repentance” (Luke 19:1-10)

The crossbeam is hoisted up. The rope is attached to a notched-out section on top of the tree and then tied down to the sawhorse again for safety.

Week 5

Sermon topic

“The Mark of a Disciple: Watchfulness and Stewardship” (Luke 19:11-17)

The crossbeam is hoisted up higher. Signage is added to the Jesus cross, reminders of Jesus’ call to his disciples, and his identity as the I AM.

Week 6: Palm Sunday

Sermon topic

“Jesus Comes into Jerusalem” (Luke 19:28-44)

The week begins with rejoicing and moves to rejection. The beam is in place; the cross is ready.

“It Is Finished”

Darkness and grief
The moment of utter brokenness for all of us,
to feel and see and know the price unimaginable . . .
Only tears
Only silence
The prayers
The healing
The joy of one
who came back.
Redemption . . .
The work of the cross is done.

Note: This poem was written by Marianne VanDelft after a young man came back to the Lord following the Good Friday service where George VanDelft’s installation played a central role. Used by permission.

Week 6: Palm Sunday

Sermon topic

“Jesus Comes into Jerusalem” (Luke 19:28-44)

The week begins with rejoicing and moves to rejection. The beam is in place; the cross is ready.

Good Friday

Sermon topic

“The Last Supper, The Garden, The Betrayal and the Trial” (Luke 23)

The Lamb without spot is sacrificed for the sins of the world on Passover. The name “Jesus, King of the Jews” is placed above the cross, and a spear, a sponge, a whip, and a crown of thorns are added, along with black and purple drapery.

Easter Morning

Sermon topic

“The Cross Is Empty; Its Work Is Done” (Luke 24)

Jesus, the Messiah, King of kings, has risen—hallelujah! Easter lilies, a trumpet, and gold and white cloths speak of the joy of the resurrected Lord.

Making the “Jesus Cross”

This cross was made of spruce, which can split easily. To stabilize it, fiberglass was affixed to the back (you could also use plywood as a stabilizer). If spruce proves to be problematic, consider using oak, fir, or walnut, depending on your budget.

This cross stands six feet (two meters) tall. The cross-piece is four feet by 9.5 inches (1.25 meters by 24 cm). The part of the S that rises above the rest of the word “Jesus” is 13 inches (33 cm) tall.

Resources

Marianne and George VanDelft are members of New Westminster Christian Reformed Church in Burnaby, British Columbia, where George uses his artistic skills to enhance the congregation’s worship.