As though he himself were present, as if he had experienced it himself, Paul said in Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live but Christ lives in me … .“ How could that be? Can we enter into another person’s experience so completely that it becomes our experience too?
Don’t we actually do this sometimes through stories? Its possible to get into a good story so much that you identify with and feel with the person you are reading about. You feel their fear, their joy, or their frustration. A friend,DH Shearer, explained how this happens to him as a Civil War reenactor. “When we put on old clothes, military or civilian, and start acting and talking like they did in the 1860’s, we become that which we portray.”
He went on to speak of what he called “magic moments,” when sometimes, even for a brief instant, it is like we are transported back 150 years. And it can be the simplest thing – the smell of gunpowder, roasting coffee beans over the fire, or whatever. “One of my first magic moments,” he said, “took place following an officer’s mess. One of our captains took out a cigar, bit the end off of it, and spit it onto the ground before lighting up. People don’t do that anymore. For a brief moment, it was 1863.”
An Israeli tour guide demonstrated how the story of his people affected him. Our tour group was traveling from Jerusalem to Tel-a-Viv by bus when he pointed to some low hills and began telling the story of a battle that took place there. It sounded like he had been in it. He told it with great detail and I wondered if it was during the war of 1967. No, he said, and he named a battle that took place before the time of Christ. But it was his people, and it was his story, and he experienced it.
The Jewish Passover meal, even today, combines the story of the exodus with the action of eating certain foods to help them live again their escape from Egypt and their rescue by God. It is a kind of re-enactment that brings the ancient experience into their lives today.
Likewise, Jesus gave us both a story and actions that help us experience what he did for us. “Do this,” he said; “Take, eat,” he said; “drink,” he said. These are action words. And he said as you do it “remember me.” There’s the story. By our actions and by remembering the story we enter into his experience and he enters into our lives. May we come to the cross today at this table and say with Paul, “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who lives but Christ who lives in me.”