Monday, March 23, 2009

The Passion of our Lord

We are about to enter the most important time in the church year. Holy Week is the time when we remember, re-live, re-enact, re-experience the events leading up to and including the crucifixion of our Lord. Beginning with Palm Sunday (Sunday, April 5) we will stand with the crowd as they watch and celebrate Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem; we will join Jesus and the disciples in the upper room for the Last Supper and then on to Gethsemane for the agony of waiting and the arrest (Maundy Thursday, April 9); we will stand and watch as Jesus is tried and convicted, tortured, crucified and dies on the cross (Good Friday, April 10); and we will join the women as they discover the empty tomb (Easter Vigil, April 11 and Easter Sunday, April 12).

Most of the above (Palm Sunday through Good Friday) has been called the Passion of our Lord. Now the word “Passion” in this context comes from the Latin word passio which means “suffering.” This makes sense, so instead of speaking of the “Passion of our Lord” we could just as easily speak of the “Suffering of our Lord.” This might be helpful since in our society the word “Passion” means something else entirely. In common English usage we use the word “passion” to refer to any “consuming interest, dedicated enthusiasm or concentrated commitment.” For example, I have a passion for music, or basketball or whatever. Our “passions” often determine how we spend both our time and our money. If we are passionate about a particular rock band we might spend our time listening to them, going to their concerts and buying their CD’s and posters and so forth. We might spend our time talking about them to others. This is what it means to be passionate about something.

This meaning of the word “passion” is not so far removed from the “Passion of Jesus.” Why was Jesus targeted and executed anyway – well, because he was passionate about God’s Kingdom. And this passion of Jesus was not mitigated by fear or intimidation of the authorities. The passion of Jesus is clearly on display during his first visit to the Temple when he angrily overturns the tables of the money-changers and drives out the merchants. The passion of Jesus did not win him many friends in high places. Dominic Crossan and Marcus Borg put it this way in their wonderful book The Last Week.
"The first passion of Jesus was the Kingdom of God, namely to incarnate the justice of God, by demanding for all a fair share of the world, belonging to and ruled by the covenantal God of Israel. It was that first passion for God’s distributive justice that let inevitably to the second passion by Pilate’s punitive justice."

So what are you passionate about? Do you share Jesus’ passion for the Kingdom of God come into our midst? How is this reflected in your use of your time and how you acquire and spend your money? Is your passion for Jesus and faith that is handed down to us reflected in how you live, the decisions you make, and way you relate to others?

May this year’s celebration of our Lord’s Passion lead us all to a more passionate involvement in God Kingdom come into the midst of God’s wonderful creation here in Central Illinois. +