Lent 5 Passion Sunday (2009) Year B RCL Principal
Living with PASSION
I don’t know what sort of things you are passionate about. When I say passionate I mean that you feel grasped by them, unable to let them go – you want to spend lots of time doing something that excites and inspires you. Perhaps your passion is Music? Movies? TV Soaps is a very popular choice! I am passionate about a number of things, one of them being my wife and children, you may have got the idea that I am passionate about guitar playing (whether or not I am terribly good at it) – but something that has become a passion of mine is motorcycling.
I love riding my motorcycle, I like all the gear that comes with motorcycles – helmets, heavy gloves, leathers, waterproofs, gizmos and gadgets – they all add to the fun of being a ‘biker’. I like looking at motorcycles too, and meeting with other bikers, and enjoying part of something that is fun, and exciting, and passionate.
If we allow them to, our passions can sometimes distract us. We can find that we become so caught up in them, that we lose sight of other important things in our lives – our families and friends, our work, all sorts of things. It can be easy to allow our passions to become obsessions.
This Sunday is Passion Sunday – when we begin to think about another kind of Passion – the Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ. As we move towards Holy Week, we remember Jesus’ suffering and death, the struggle and pain that he underwent in the last days of his life. This is commonly known in the Church as his Passion because of the strength of the feelings Jesus underwent and the difficulties he faced.
On this Sunday I want to think about our vision as a Mission Community, as we will over these coming months take the time to consider again our hopes and our aims in the Churches, beginning with us being centred on Christ, but also being filled by God’s Holy Spirit with faith and love and exercising generously the gifts that God has given. Today I want be talk about living our Christian lives with Passion.
This is a very appropriate theme for this Sunday, but we must be careful not to get the idea of Jesus’ passion mixed up with being Passionate Christians. The two ideas aren’t separate from each other, but they have different meanings in many ways.
And today I want to take this opportunity to ask what you are passionate about? Or rather, are you passionate about your faith? To be honest, if many of us took our Faith as seriously as some of our other passions, our Churches would be full, and the Gospel would be spreading like wildfire in our country and beyond.
But Passion is not something we hear preached about very often in our Churches. The idea that our faith can be all consuming can be seen as a little bit distasteful, somewhat uncomfortable, not very ‘British’.
But as Christians we are called to live our Christian lives with Passion, devotion and commitment. There are no half measures in God’s love for us nor should there be in our love for God. We are all filled with God’s Spirit of faith, hope and love, the Spirit that gives life in all its fullness.
Our Bible readings for today give us some idea of God’s opinion about our lives. In the wonderful reading from the book of Jeremiah we are told that God’s law, the will of God as described in the Old Testament, will pass from the written word, from tablets and scrolls and papyrus and paper and books – into our hearts. The promise is, says God, that he will write his law in our hearts.
As Christians we believe that God has done this, he has given us life through his Spirit who lives in our hearts and convinces us of God’s love and draws us towards God’s will. It is this new law, the law of love, that should inspire our passion. We are called to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, strength and mind. If that’s not a good definition of passion, I’m not sure what is. And alongside this we are called to love our neighbour as our self.
This isn’t something that is open to negotiation. It’s not an optional extra to Christian Faith, it IS Christian faith. This all consuming love is the foundation, and the purpose, of faith.
And it was this love, this all consuming passion that was the basis of Jesus life, and which led him to his own Passion and death on that Good Friday. It was this all consuming love that guided all that he said and did. It drove his faith, and it led him in the will of God.
It wasn’t easy, and it lead to death, but it led also to the resurrection that brought each one of us to share the life of God.
In our Gospel lesson we have the memorable saying of Jesus that unless a seed falls into the ground and dies it cannot bear fruit. This is a powerful image, and though we know a seed doesn’t actually die under the ground, the waiting, the seeking can sometimes make it seem as if it is gone and then comes back to life again.
Death is the lack of passion, a place of emptiness. Life on the other hand is filled with vitality and vigour.
In our own lives are there things that we need to let go of, things that we need to allow to fall into the ground and die in order that our Christian Faith may truly live? Perhaps there are distractions, things we take us away from truly giving all to God. Perhaps we are afraid to what might happen if we truly gave up everything to God. Perhaps we are not sure what it means to hand over the whole of our lives to God. Perhaps we simply don’t see this as relevant to us.
But the Bible is quite clear that, as Christians, our faith must be alive, and active, and filled with passion. When we are alive in our faith, when we have allowed our distractions, fears, misunderstandings and apathy to fall into the ground and die, it is then that we can bear the fruit of the Gospel.
And this fruit is to do God’s will, to serve Jesus as we follow him. In our Gospel reading our Lord said
Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honor.
Christian life is not a passive thing, but must be a passionate thing. Serving and following are active, not passive – they are things we must actively pursue as Christians.
And we do all of this that God’s name may be glorified, that his Kingdom may come and his will be done. That the seed of this old world may pass away and God may bring resurrection life to all of creation. That, as Jesus tells us in today’s Gospel – the judgment may come and the ruler of this world be overthrown. That the fullness of life in Christ can come. That Christ may be lifted up from this earth and may draw all people to himself.
We can play our part in this great plan, in our great hope of faith, by living our Christian lives with Passion in all that we do. Willing to face the consequences and the costs, just as Jesus was, in order that God may work in us and through us and in partnership with us might usher in the new life of his Kingdom to all people.
May this aim become something that informs and inspires the whole of our lives, may Passion for Christ and for the coming Kingdom consume us and draw us ever closer to God. Amen.