Thin Places

Celtics term for places or moments when you encounter an unusual spiritual presence.: “thin places”. They would speak of those time and places where the  separation between heaven and earth was very thin. If you have any reading about the moment of Jesus death at Calvary then you know that this was a very “thin place”.

Although for us it is most likely that we will think of the agony of Jesus when we think of Calvary,  if we take some time and look back it will be obvious that Heaven and Earth collided in that moment.

Today as we gather at this thin place today. It’s odd that for some, as well participate in the event of Church, this moment may be very connected to God. But for others this is just another day and time in their life. These “thin places” are a personal thing. You could be experiencing a deep personal moment with God, and someone else could wondering when this service will be over.

One morning when my wife was ill and I was in church service alone I felt myself really begin to have my own little service. I began to ask the Lord to just take it all from me. I explained to Him that I couldn’t hold it any more that I was sorry for even thinking that I could. “I just want to do what you want of me, all the time. I don’t want anything else. It is too much for me. I need you all the time.”

 

I began to notice other men in the Church coming and sitting beside me ans asking if I was OK. “No, I’m not. I just need to let the Lord have all of it. All of it. I want nothing more than what he wants.” As I spoke to them I realized why they were there. I was bawling. I was a mess. But when it all cleared I knew that I had been cleansed by the Holy Spirit. What was being spoken about in the sermon I have no idea. I and the Spirit had a completely different service that day.  The separation between I and Heaven was very thin for me that day.

As Christ was hanging between Heaven & Earth, in that moment in time, Heaven touched the Earth.

Listen to Christ’s final words and you will see.

The death of Christ is recorded in all four Gospels. All of the Gospels tell the story in a different way. Matthew and John from the perspective of those who literally walked with Christ. Mark and Luke from the perspective who investigated the story and are reporting to us.

When it comes to the moment of Jesus death Mathew and Mark present a great deal of the agony, but not the “Thinness”. In fact, Matthew and Mark focus on the agony of Christ’s death. Not God’s presence, but His absence.

Matthew and Mark both list what is considered by some to be an agonized moment for Christ. “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matt. 27:46)(Mark 15:34)

We are led to believe that Christ died in great anguish. Not only physical pain, but a deep, “down to the core of your being” kind of anguish. Some would say it is the cry of one who feels abandoned by God. But if you know Psalm 22 then you know that Jesus was quoting a specific piece of scripture. A piece of scripture that tells the story of the Messiah. This is not a cry of defeat, it is a cry of victory.

No as Jesus was hanging between Heaven and  Earth what He was telling those around Him just who he was. In effect say, “Now that you have done this you may want to go back of a few things. Here is my calling card.”

Luke and John remember it differently. Neither better nor worse; it’s just different. They recognize the thinness.

John 19:28-30

28Later, knowing that all was now completed, and so that the Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, “I am thirsty.” 29A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus’ lips. 30When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

For Luke and John, Christ’s transition from this world to the next is less about the anguish and more about the moment in the history of God and man.

“It is finished!” the last words John remembers hearing at the cross. Jesus doesn’t tell us what ‘it’ is.

What is finished? Were these the words of someone who is feeling overwhelmed, who finally realizes the battle is being lost? Are these words of despair? What if we knew nothing else of Christ of these words? If that was the case then I would say that it is the end of His life and the final defeat of His ministry.

But that isn’t all we know is it? But they aren’t are they? If we look to the end of John we can begin to understand. Hind sight being 20/20 we can say that he returned to launch His plan. We know that this death was really the beginning of eternal life for all of us. So what is ‘it’?

“It is finished,” Is an announcement, His bodily work on earth is done.

Throughout John we see that Jesus is:

·       Sent by the Father

·       Devoted to the will of the father

·       That the hour has not come.

·       Then… “The hour has come” (John 12:23)

What is he talking about? The finally of His ministry has come. His death. “It is finished!” Mission accomplished! My task has been faithfully completed.

This is a shout of victory, triumph. He has suffered here as much as He will. He has live a life completely in the will of God and He has revealed God’s Love.

Luke 23:44-46

44It was now about the sixth hour, and darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour, 45for the sun stopped shining. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. 46Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” When he had said this, he breathed his last.

Keeping in mind who the men are that we are reading it isn’t too hard to understand what is being said. John is making sure we know He did it. It is done. John was with Him. Jesus hanging on the Cross has asked John and Mary (Jesus Mother) to take care of each other.

Luke was not there. In fact, Luke is more like a reporter or a narrative biographer. He says at the beinging of the gospel, “I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, it seemed good also to me to write an orderly account for you” (Luke 1:3) He is telling the story of a man’s life through narrative moments in that life. Luke sees much more around the moment.

Luke tells us of the ominous weather that reflected that things were getting “thin”. Luke tells us that when Jesus dies at the curtain between the “holy of holies” and the common man rips from top to bottom.

Let’s pause for a moment and get perspective about what just happened. Jesus has been tried, convicted, beaten, spit on, dragged through street, and nailed to a cross by the religious right of His day. As He hangs there and about to die He hands them a piece of scripture (Ps. 22) that identifies Him as the Messiah and describes exactly what they have done to him. Then as he passes from their grip the curtain that symbolized their keeping of common men from God has ripped from top to bottom.

Not a good day at the temple!

 

Luke reports the last words many heard as, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit” (Luke 23:46). Then He breathed His last. As a pastor I might say that for you at your grave side. Jesus is the Rabbi at His own funeral. Not the victim of a lynching, not that sad desperate soul. The faithful son who has done all he was sent for.

He has come to be with us, He has been followed by many, but he has also been stripped, beaten, spit upon, mocked, and hung out to die. His reaction… His spirit belongs to God, His Father. This resurrection is not His defeat, but is the defeat of the power and fear of death.

We all know this. (Hindsight and all) But before the resurrection, before the assurance that God would win in the end, Christ models something else for us in His dying. His dying demonstrates His faith. He dies unafraid.

Christ’s resurrection is our hope, but we can say His death gives us hope as well.

For He died as He lived: secure in the arms of the Father.

It’s a rare thing these days for death to be faced with calmness. But part of our hope as Christians is to face death in different ways than the world faces death. Death means the end of opportunity and the end of hope. Jesus is facing death as a beginning of the next stage.

This much all four gospels agree on. Calvary was the spot where Jesus breathed His last breath.  Then death came at that “thin place”.  Those places that we think about the real matters of life and death.

So often, in the season of Lent, by the time we reach this Sunday we’re already focused on Resurrection. We’re putting the finishing touches on the Easter music, our family dinner, our family. We have a Resurrection to celebrate! There’s no time to think about death!

But resurrection is always resurrection from the DEAD. And despite our culture’s aversion to talking about death, it’s the focus of the day. There is no resurrection without death. And remembering the death of Christ can be a moment to reflect on our own death. When we think with any seriousness about how we’ll die, we always end up back at the question of how we live.

Will we live with an awareness of God’s purpose for our lives? Will we be blessed by the peace that comes from knowing that our life’s work is done when we are done living our days? Or will there be a nagging sense of “unfinished business”? By the grace of God, may you be able to know “It is finished,” when your days come to an end. And may you commend your spirit to the Father with your final breath.

A story from Preacher’s Magazine (modified for today)

http://www.nph.com/nphweb/html/pmol/pastissues/Lent%202006/webapr9.htm

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About toddcbrown

The body of Christ will never grow if the Pastor is the one using his gifts to MAKE IT grow through some cool program or inspiring turn of a phrase.
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