“…you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away.”       ~ 1 Peter 5:4
I couldn’t wait to bring home my first trophy. I had admired my sister’s and wondered what it would be like to have my very own gracing my dresser-top. I was sure It would feel pretty special, like I was really “somebody,” now that I had earned my very own 4-H trophy. I can still picture it: a gold-colored statue sat atop a wooden base; my name was engraved in a small metal plate attached to the front. I was so proud of my trophy because it symbolized 1st place, or at least a great accomplishment – a high honor. But most of all, just because it was a TROPHY. My very own trophy. Over the years, others joined it. “Trophies” of many varieties: more 4-H prizes, high school medals, and honors cords. Framed artwork,  plaques, and newspaper clippings detailing my achievements. College diploma, positions of status, prized possessions, and more.  Honors. Accomplishments. Trophies. Can you name some of yours?
They’re not bad things, these trophies, if (pride-in-check) they help us recall the hard work, dedication, and God-given gifts used to accomplish some task or purpose, to grow or develop a new skill, maybe even to enable us to work alongside or minister to others.
In Good Friday’s message, our beloved pastor emeritus recalled some of the many trophies earned in his 82 years thus far, and chuckled as he related a few attached memories. Then he asked us about our trophies. (That’s why I share my list with you today.) During our lives, have we clung tightly to them, measuring who we are by our accomplishments? Do we cherish them, claiming we are “somebody” by our trophies? There will come a time when all our trophies – all the other cherished “things” of life – will no longer grace our dresser-tops; they will topple or fade; they will be given (or thrown) away. (I wonder where my box of old 4-H trophies is today…probably somewhere in my parents’ attic.)
Our pastor relayed this timeless hymn to us, and the words of the chorus spoke to me as never before:
So I’ll cherish the old rugged cross,
Till my trophies at last I lay down;
I will cling to the old rugged cross,
And exchange it some day for a crown.

We cherish not trophies, but Christ, slain for a world of lost sinners on a rough, rugged, and blood-stained cross. We lay down our trophies, for, as our pastor said, “You’ve gotta have both hands free to cling to the cross!” Yes, by faith, we cling only to the cross, the One place salvation is found. And we rejoice in the empty tomb! Jesus is RISEN, and we will one day receive the crown of glory, eternal life in Him.
And by the way, it DOES feel pretty special, knowing we are really “somebody” to our Savior; we each have the high honor of holding 1st place in His heart, as if we were His one-and-only prized possession! Did you know that your name is engraved in the palms of God's hands (see Isaiah 49:16)? You are measured, not by your accomplishments, but by the One who saved you and accomplishes His good work in you!

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