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The Old Rugged Cross: Speaking to the World a Century Later

I had a similar experience with "The Old Rugged Cross" as is described in my article "A fated Appointment with The Prayer of Serenity".

Why I Avoided Viewing the movie, "The Passion of the Christ"

For years, I avoided watching the 2004 movie produced and directed by Mel Gibson called "The Passion of the Christ". You know, the one that was such a huge box office hit all around the world.

The reason for the avoidance was a desire not to have to witness what had been described to me as an extremely raw and painful depiction of the Crucifixion in living color.

I relented because this Easter season, "The Passion of the Christ" seemed to be streaming on every service that was featuring movies. And finally, my resolve to not watch it, seemed silly and self-serving. It was just a movie. So, Easter evening I turned it on and watched from beginning to end.

Let me say, everything I had heard and read was absolutely true. The movie was even more agonizingly painful than I thought it would be; at times I had to close my eyes, or turn my head because I simply couldn't take the realness of Jesus' suffering, and ultimately his painful death. It was awful, but at the same time the sacrifice was amazingly beautiful.

A Message in the Song

It was somewhere close to the end of the movie that "The Old Rugged Cross" began to reverberate in my head; over and over again. What with all the weeping going on, and the music playing in my head, I more or less missed the ending of the movie, and had to go back and watch that part again.

It was indeed an excellent movie, albeit difficult to watch; but I've always felt that it was cowardly of me to be incapable of watching what Jesus actually suffered for all of us. In that regard, I feel better that I have finally seen the movie; and feel almost heroic just to have made it through.

Ultimately, I can't help wondering if there isn't possibly a message in the song that's particularly relevant right now; a message that is meant to get out.

Since there are so many leaving the earthly realm at this time due to the Pandemic, could the message be a reminder, and the offer of comfort that comes with knowing you are going home to Him, and there is nothing to fear.

"Then He'll call me to my home far away, where His glory forever I'll share".

And what about ....

"So I'll cherish the old rugged cross, till my trophies at last I lay down".

"The Old Rugged Cross", Joshua Miller

The Story of The Old Rugged Cross

"The Old Rugged Cross" was written by George Bennard, an ordained minister in the Methodist Episcopal Church and composer of a number of hymns. He wrote both the text and melody for the song in 1912.

As an itinerant evangelical minister, Bennard traveled the country delivering the gospel, and as he did he worked on "The Old Rugged Cross", which was completed in 1912, not published until 1915 and believed to be recorded for the first time in 1921. The song was first performed at the First Methodist Episcopal Church in Pokagon, Michigan at a revival on June 7, 1913.

The "Old Rugged Cross" was an instant hit and over the years has been performed by many musical greats, including Anne Murray, Johnny Cash and June Carter, Mahalia Jackson, Loretta Lynn, Tennessee Ernie Ford, Brad Paisley, Al Green, Patsy Cline, Willie Nelson, Alan Jackson, the Oak Ridge Boys and many more.

Bennard retired to Reed City, Michigan in 1958 where a museum is maintained in honor of both the author and the song.

Reverend George Bennard

Reverend George Bennard

The Old Rugged Cross Foundation

The First Methodist Episcopal Church of Pokagon, Michigan was restored by The Old Rugged Cross Foundation to be used as both a church and museum.

The Foundation's Mission: The Foundation was formed "For the purpose of restoring the old church where the hymn made its public debut, and preserving the history of the hymn and its author".

First Methodist Episcopal Church of Pokagon, Michigan where The Old Rugged Cross was first performed

First Methodist Episcopal Church of Pokagon, Michigan where The Old Rugged Cross was first performed

© 2020 Claudette Jones