Sermon podcast: Lent 512 Mar 2018 By Sermon Podcasts
Andrew Sillis, Priest in Charge of St Thomas, Stourbridge, 18 March 2018.
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The Fifth Sunday of Lent is often called ‘Passion Sunday’ and it begins that period of the Church’s calendar called ‘Passiontide’.
The word ‘passion’, outside of church circles, is a word full of emotional intensity and dedication. It is an active word and an adjective describing a place where our emotions are at the very limits of our control; where the intensity of our enthusiasms block out virtually all other thoughts or feelings. Passion is what pushes an athlete over the line; Passion is what fuels the obsession of an explorer; Passion is the unquenchable curiosity of the scientist; and Passion is the total abandonment of lovers to one another.
I often feel that, inside church circles, ‘Passion’ has had its fire extinguished. It becomes a narrative, a story of Jesus' suffering and death. Rather than active, it becomes something which happens to Jesus, instead of something which Jesus pursues; but today’s Gospel reading tells a different story.
It begins rather curiously with some Greek people wanting to meet Jesus, and this simple request seems to set Jesus alight. St John takes us through a mundane sequence of arrangements, to Jesus, who, as if the blue touch paper of a firework had been lit, explodes into a realm of prayer and power and prophecy.
Jesus speaks of the trepidation and necessity of sacrifice - if we are to live according to the ways of God’s Kingdom. He speaks of the victory of life and love over evil in the world, a victory which is both assured and yet to be realised. He speaks of the glory of God, and he speaks of the reconciliation of all Creation to himself. This is quite a response to the request, “There’s some people here who’d quite like to meet you”!
As a child I was taught a bedtime prayer which began. ‘Gentle Jesus, meek and mild, look upon this little child…”. It didn’t sustain me through my teenage years and I all but lost my faith and belief. Later I encountered a different vision of Christ, one where love had power and the story of the Bible became God’s great campaign to win back the children he loved but who had lost their way. God himself had a passion for me, and for all he had created. Creation was neither abandoned nor forsaken, but God was claiming it back and winning territory step by step, soul by soul.
God had passion for creation, and was not a casual observer of it, and God had a passion for me, and was not content with my simply knowing about him. He had a passion for me and want me to be in relationship, to have a passion for him and for all he had made.
Jesus declares his passion proclaiming,
“Father, glorify your name”
Jesus declares his passion announcing, “I will draw all people to myself”
In Passiontide, as we hear the “Passion story” of Jesus’ suffering, death and resurrection - as think of him nailed to a cross to die - the most conspicuous demonstration of the desolation and depravity of human evil, as we hear of his resurrection from the dead - the most elegant demonstration of the power of God and of the ultimate futility of evil. We do not hear a story of passivity; we hear a story of passion -
God’s passion for the life he created
and God’s passion for you, that you might draw near to Jesus, the source of all life.
- What are you passionate about?
- Jesus’ passion was to glorify the Father, and to draw all people (that is, to draw you) to himself. What does it mean to you, to be the subject of the passion of Jesus?
- In what ways do you (or could you) use your passion to further the imperatives of God’s Kingdom - Love, Compassion, Justice, and Freedom?