Sunday, April 11, 2010

Passion - A Sermon for Good Friday

We read the Passion Gospel today. Every time I hear that phrase, “Passion Gospel,” my mind races to that Mel Gibson movie several years ago. You remember, “The Passion of the Christ.”

My recollection of it was that it was essentially a festival of violence by Romans against Jesus. If you saw it, all I can say is, there was very little in that movie that resembled the Passion Gospel.

If I can step away from that movie, however, then the word Passion holds all sorts of other images for me. Lovers. Crusaders. People who really love what they do – who have a passion for something.

That’s because for most of us, passion means a deep and abiding interest and even love for something. We think of being really into something. You’re passionate about it, whether it’s a hobby, a person or an idea. You give up a lot to do it.

There’s something else about passions. You will give up a lot in order to pursue that passion. You will give up money, comfort, even safety. That’s almost a prerequisite for passion – the willingness to suffer for your object of passion.

Good thing, too, because the Latin root for passion (and patience, by the way) means to endure or suffer. So passion connects two seemingly incompatible things – Love and suffering.

That’s why we call Jesus’ crucifixion his Passion. It is suffering, but it’s suffering for a reason, something God feels strongly about. That something is Us.

Let’s not pretend that Jesus did not know what he was getting in to. He understood the politics of the Romans and the Sanhedrin. He understood the powder keg that was Jerusalem during Passover. He understood what it meant to be the Passover Lamb.

But he also understood God’s great love for this imperfect group of people he calls his children. He understood the separation we had allowed to grow between us and God. And he understood that a selfless act of sacrificial love was pretty much the only way for us to grasp how much we mean to God – and how God hopes we will relate to him.

Jesus had – has – a passion for us. And for us, he was willing to give up a lot – comfort, safety, life itself.

Today we remember the passion. Let us remember that it is an abiding passion for us, and that we are invited to have it, too. It could conceivably cause us discomfort at times, but like every passion, we can put up with the sacrifices because what we love is so very worth it. And we know this because Jesus led the way. Amen.