Sermon for Lent 5 – Passion Sunday – Year B (2018)
“Follow your Passion” (?)
As we remember, last Sunday was Mothering Sunday – the fourth in Lent. Next Sunday is Palm Sunday, when we enter Jerusalem with Jesus at the beginning of Holy Week. But what of this week? What Sunday is the fifth in Lent?
The answer is Passion Sunday . . . So today I want to think about Passion – for certainly it is a word that is used a great deal nowadays. Just the other day I received from a school some details of the election of Parent governors – and the first person began by saying ‘how passionate’ they were about education. Every other advert at resent seems to me seems to offer you something, for your passion. Being passionate about things is generally thought to be a good thing – we are told to ‘follow our passion’ . . . but what does it meant follow our passion? Probably not what we think . . .
For the Word Passion comes from the Latin Pati – Passio – and is a distinctively Christian Word, and we should always be alert when words which properly belong to our Tradition get used more widely, because often they lose their power, even completely reversing their meaning. For Pati, or Passio means ‘to suffer’, which is immediately evident the moment we think of ‘the Passion of Jesus’ – For today we enter Passiontide – the sharp end of Lent – Jesus’ suffering and the Cross looms ahead.
As our final hymn will say today – ‘And in the garden secretly, And on the cross on high, Should teach His brethren, and inspire. To suffer and to die.’
To be Passionate about anything is to be prepared to suffer for it – we may well say that this is the true meaning of Love – to be prepared to suffer for . . . think for example of elderly couples where either the husband or wife is incapacitated in some way, and how the other quietly suffers in serving them. It is an echo of The Passion.
Put another way, our Passion is that for which we sacrifice our lose our Life. it is something we give our life for – we sacrifice many good things, for the Best thing, the supreme thing. The greater the Passion, the greater the Sacrifice. A good sign of True Passion is where seemingly good things things have been given up for the Best thing, sacrificed for it.
If we take Life remotely seriously, we will make sacrifices. Put another way, anyone who is even half alive, paying attention is inherently religious, sacrificing for the sake of that which we love best. Suffering now the loss of things in the present for future gain.
So perhaps we may ask, are our passions worthwhile? Is ‘my passion’ worth suffering for? Giving up your life for? What is its true value? Just asking that question shows how shallow our use of the word has become . . . Not so very long ago I was talking n a high school where they’d just had their ‘Passion Project Week’ – and I saw people ‘passionate about Dr Who, for example . . . Passionate about Texting . . . these are our passions revealed – what we spend our days and hours caught in . . . what we spend our Lives on . . . seeking to gain our lives and losing them
the Scriptures always point us to Jesus, ‘who for the joy set before him, endured the Cross and its shame. That Suffering was worth it for the goal
In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to the one who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. Although he was a Son, he learned obedience through what he suffered; He learned what it truly meant to live a Life fully in accord with the Goodness of God . . . this is the deep meaning of Obedience – one who Hears the Word of God and does it
. . . and having been made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him . . . His Faithfulness to God becomes a source of Life for all who do the same – hear the word and do it, whatever the cost
Through suffering . . . As I said at the beginning of Lent, we follow Jesus in Lent through prayer and fasting and almsgiving – there is a certain suffering involved in this, self denial. We may, indeed we should get tired and hungry as we learn to direct our Passions properly towards the source of Life – God in Jesus Christ, for as Jesus said ‘Where I am going you cannot now come, but you will come after’ Following Christ without suffering and difficulty is not following him at all. The World is no friend to Goodness, Truth and Beauty. Jesus does not go to the cross that we may enjoy a life of ease and a free pass into heaven, rather he goes to prepare a way, which he calls a hard and narrow way – he opens the door through the suffering of his body, that we may enter in by that same way.
‘The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honour.
This is the Goal – the honour that comes from the Father. His Well Done!. Is it ours?
What does it mean to serve Jesus? Surely at the very least it means not serving ourselves – or we might say ‘not following our passions’ It means Obeying him, It means conforming our Life to his – as I said a few months ago to our Youth Group – being a Christian is about becoming more and more like Jesus . . .
‘Now my soul is troubled. And what should I say—“Father, save me from this hour”? No, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name.’ Then a voice came from heaven, ‘I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.’
This is no small thing – faced with the cost of following Jesus, many many turn back – they fall back on Passions which demean their status as bearers of the Image of God – they chase after idols – sacrificing their lives, but for what?
Jesus shows us the way – he pours out his life for Goodness, For Truth, for Beauty, For Healing, For Wholeness, For True Peace . . . for what are our lives being poured out for? We cannot journey well through Lent without asking these questions of ourselves. We cannot find true Easter Joy, unless we have discovered the Healing Depths of Good Friday – that our lives are found in losing them, that the Way of Life is the Way of Death.