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Sep 3 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

August 30, 2015 – Galatians 2:20-3:1; 6:14

Cross My Heart

I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me. I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died needlessly.
You foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you before whose eyes Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified?
But may it never be that I would boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. Galatians 2:20-3:1; 6:14

Intro: I was twenty-two years old, traveling home from Israel with two friends

We a had three-day lay over in Switzerland and hoped to find our way to L’Abri
– while on a train winding its way through the Alps
• I opened my Bible to the gospel I had been reading
◦ I had come to the story of Jesus’ crucifixion
– perhaps it was I had a real-world perspective of the sites of Jesus’ sorrow, trial and suffering
• but I found myself being drawn into the story
◦ I was not merely reading it, I was experiencing it
• here was Jesus, this person that I knew and loved
◦ I knew his goodness, kindness, wisdom, generosity with healing–a wonderful man
◦ as he was dying, his grief and pain came so close that it broke my heart
• the story was so old and I had heard it so many times,
◦ I was surprised me that it could move me to tears

[shifting gears . . .]
Paul was upset with the Galatians

Without getting into the details, they had been sucked into rule-based religion
– that was not the message Paul delivered to them
• he had publicly portrayed Jesus Christ–crucified
◦ his death served to provide imperfect, sinful people like us new life in God
• “portray” translates a Greek word that was used for putting up posters
(like “missing person” signs families sometimes tack up in cities)
◦ the Galatians had been given a clear picture of Jesus’ death
◦ it was part of Paul’s “gospel,” that Christ died for our sins (1 Cor. 15:3)
– we cannot complete our spiritual journey without a compelling vision of Jesus’ crucifixion
• one place where this is most likely to occur is in Communion
(also referred to as Eucharist or The Lord’s Supper–cf. 1 Cor. 11:26)

A lesson from Christian history

In Mysticism, Evelyn Underhill noted, “For the Christian mystics, the sacraments and mysteries of faith have always provided [a fulcrum]; and these often play a large part in the production of their ecstasies. For St. Catherine of Siena . . . the reception of Holy Communion was the prelude to ecstasy.”
Simone Weil, “There was a young English Catholic there from whom I gained my first idea of the supernatural power of the sacraments because of the truly angelic radiance with which he seemed to be clothed after going to communion.”
Teresa of Avila, in The Book of Her Life reported, “Sometimes He comes with such great majesty that no one could doubt but that it is the Lord Himself. Especially after receiving Communion for we know that He is present, since our faith tells us this.”

– in the first hermitages and monasteries, the one time everyone came together–
• even the most reclusive hermit–was on Sunday to participate in Communion
• this was because of the unique way they encountered Jesus in the bread and the cup
– in the ritual, our faith rises to God’s grace as it descends
• or perhaps as Helmut Thielicke observed:

“Faith does not rise up to go to God; God comes to faith and makes himself present to it by his Spirit.”

It helps if our experience is as fully sensory as possible

If Jesus’ crucifixion is not made real to us, it tends to fade into history
– or begins to seem fairy tale
• the apostles did not communicate Jesus “in word only” (1 Thes. 1:5)
• they shared their experience of Jesus so it could become the experience of others

What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the Word of Life–and the life was manifested, and we have seen and testify and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was manifested to us–what we have seen and heard we proclaim to you also, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ. (1 Jn. 1:1-3)

At the same time, visions of the cross do not have to be depressingly grim
– Jesus’ crucifixion was not mean to evoke guilt, but to free us from it
• we can make it a sentimental, graphically violent or self-condemning experience
◦ but that could cause us to completely lose touch with what is really going on
◦ I would hope our experience is real enough to move us, but without melodrama
• in the second part of Pilgrim’s Progress, Christiana left the cross with heartfelt gratitude

“It seems it makes my heart bleed to think that he should bleed for me. Oh, loving One! Oh, blessed One! You deserve to have me; you have bought me; you deserve to have me completely; you have paid for me ten thousand times more that I am worth.” (I’ve taken the liberty to paraphrase her soliloquy)

– we want the crucifixion imprinted on our souls, so that never forget
• and so we can occasionally revisit the experience
◦ but our spiritual journey does not end at the cross
◦ not any more than the disciples’ lives ended there
• there is an exception however; namely, people who suffer chronic pain, mood disorders, etc.
◦ for them, the Book of Job and the cross of Jesus are continual sources of insight and inspiration

Simone Weil, “The cross of Christ is the only source of light that is bright enough to illumine affliction.”

Communion is an opportunity to come close to Jesus

He said of both the bread and the cup, do this in remembrance of Me (1 Co. 11:24-25)
– in this remembering we do not merely recall past events
• it is a remembering that makes brings the presence of Jesus into our conscious experience
• it is awareness of a timeless reality that manifests itself here, now
– I believe there is justification for using our imagination when we approach the cross
• to visualize the picture Paul “portrayed,” to enter story
◦ imagination is the only way to make the historical event real to senses
◦ there is no lens we can look through into and see the past
▫ despite its distortions, our imagination brings us near to what actually happened
▫ imagination inspired, informed by scripture and infused by the Spirit of God

“This is My body,” “This is My blood”
– Jesus gave himself fully to us in the bread and the cup
• and this is how we receive him full
• how we absorb his death into our dying bodies in order to participate in his life
incarnation means “in flesh” and describes how God entered our world
• bread and wine, body and blood
◦ we also are flesh and blood – the part of us that is held down by gravity
• I understand why gnostic heretics wanted to separate the spirit from the body
◦ and then transcend the body–by neglect, deprivation or indulgence
◦ flesh and blood pull us down
▫ the heart can glide on the air as gracefully as birds
▫ the mind can rise to the stars through magnification, mathematics and speculation
▫ but we will always be dragged back down to the real world by our flesh and blood

Conc: God has a different destiny for our flesh and blood

It was his plan from the beginning–before the body became an anchor
– not that we would transcend our bodies, but that he would inspire them–literally!

. . . do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God? (1 Cor. 6:19)

• it is like Ezekiel’s famous vision of a valley filled with dry bones (Eze. 37:1-1-14)
◦ even with flesh and skin covering the bones, there was no breath in them
◦ not until the word came and the wind blew breath into them
• What was the message God revealed through the vision?

I will put My Spirit within you and you will come to life . . . (Eze. 37:14)
As he had previously promised: I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes and you will be careful to observe My ordinances. (Eze. 36:26-27)

– this was an incarnation of a lesser sort
• it was God’s breath of life that entered and reanimated the dead human flesh and bones
• in bread and wine, however, we are touched by the flesh and blood of God incarnate
◦ the superior and ultimate incarnation
◦ instead of being dragged down by our flesh and blood,
we are pulled up by the flesh and blood of Christ

Although the bread and cup are from the earth, they lift us into heaven
We meet Jesus at his cross and he takes us elsewhere

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