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Passion -- Sermon-Passion Sunday 2013

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"Passion" - Sermon for Palm Sunday 2013

Sermon text: Luke 22:14-23:56

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Today is the day we remember the Passion of Christ And what does this word, passion mean to any of us, though? Many people of a certain age will see the word "Passion" and think of a Rod Stewart song from the 1980s or a perfume in a black bottle hawked by Elizabeth Taylor. Both the song and the perfume evoke a sense of the word passion that is much more in use and familiar to English speaking people in the world, that involves a desire centered around love and physical contact between two people. But this use of the word to which we've become accustomed bespeaks only a portion of the meaning of the word in English.

The English word passion is usually defined as any great, strong, powerful emotion, frequently romantic love or hate. While we think about passion for another human being, but we can also talk about a passion for a sport, like baseball. A passion for music, a passion for coin collecting, or birdwatching, or skiing. A passion for preaching or a passion for etymological meaning of English words. What's important to understand in this sense is that it involves an intensity of emotion, a feeling so strong that it can impact the long-term well-being of the person who is feeling it, maybe even change their lives for the better or worse.

The English language gets the word passion directly from the Latin, the root word, passio, which is directly translatable as "suffering." It is in that suffering of Jesus that we derive our title today, Passion Sunday. Today we have recounted the final events of the ministry of Jesus incarnate, from the last supper all the way through his crucifixion and his death and burial. And here in our passage from Luke, we recount the suffering of Jesus, the Passion of Jesus, alongside the passionate emotions of everyone whom Jesus touched, and while reading it I myself can step into the role of these individuals, friend and betrayer, companion and denier, judge and follower, and experience a little of what sharing those moments must have been like.

The disciples, Jesus' companion, enter into the final supper with a passionate hunger and thirst for food and drink, and Jesus himself eagerly desires to share that meal with his colleagues and friends before he suffers. Then they experience the realization that he will very soon be leaving them, with the revelation that one of their company would betray him, and they experience different, passionate feelings of loss, suspicion and confusion. Then Jesus predicts that Peter himself, in a moment of weakness would turn on him, giving the first disciple passionate denial and the others passionate foreboding and grief.

And as we move through this narrative, drawing ever closer to the cross, as we progress to the culmination of the account, as more and more people participate and the end grows more realized the intensity of feelings among the people involved grows as well.

Jesus is praying on the Mount of Olives. We are with him as he asks the Father to remove this cup from him, this suffering to come, and we are with him as he accepts his fate. There is a great, almost passionate peace. And his disciples, who are so saddened and grief-stricken that they can do aught but sleep. The intense guilt of Judas as he kisses Jesus, and the horrible act of his follower who cut the ear of the slave and then Jesus saying, enough. His calm resignation as the soldiers lead him away.

And then as Peter encounters those that he would recognize him, he has great and passionate fear, and denying him: great shame, and humiliation.

And the cast grows.

The cynicism of the assembly of elders as they ask him pointed questions about his being the messiah, with an almost fertile hope by some there that he is someone who is going to shake the yoke of Roman oppression from their people, and then the sarcastic turn as they drag him before Pontius Pilate. Pilate is anxious and perplexed with the laying of the issue at his feet, and resolute in sending Jesus off to Herod.

And Herod is awash with expectation and delight that this notable individual, this famous miracle maker is being brought into his parlor, and then florid with contempt as as he ejects Jesus upon learning that he would not perform magic tricks at his beck and call.

Pilate, frustrated with the problem in his house again, tries to sway the crowds. The people of Jerusalem, stirred up with passionate anger, shouts Pilate's oratory down. He sentences Jesus to death.

Onward to the cross, Jesus walks. The mood is somber. The daughters of Jerusalem are fraught with sorrow. The Roman soldiers homesick for Italy, and bored with sentry over a people that hate them mock Jesus, this king of the Jews as they lift him on to the cross.

And his two companions in death, the passionate desperation of the first, wanting so badly to be rescued by this man he'd heard so much about, and the passionate hope and faith of the second, knowing that his fate is sealed, longing for a place in the kingdom.

The suffering ends. Jesus dies. The city turns. The Judeans go home in horror, realizing what they have done. His followers remain, watching in great sorrow. And one brave councilor, Joseph of Arimathea, patiently prepares Jesus' body in solemn reverence, his soul deep in passion for this one final kindness.

And then, the sabbath. The passion is over, everyone rests.

All those emotions, all this that is happening, all the pain, all the sorrow, all the passion. We are brought into this drawn into this passion with an ordinary yearning for food and drink, and we travel through the incredible ride, this most beautiful and horrifying of narratives, this greatest story ever told. We come to its conclusion with a great feeling of loss, the humiliating death of one Jesus Christ, convicted for crimes he did not commit, crimes done by our own fault...by our own most grievous fault.

It is in this passion that we have an acute awareness of mortal pain, the sense of loss in knowing that we are, in our own skins, separated from God, lonely creatures that cannot be restored to him by any act of our own doing. Because our own acts are what got us into this condition, this separation, this darkness... this passionate death.

We need our God to keep our promises and free us from ourselves. We need to be carried out of this desolation and brought into the kingdom that he has laid out for us.

We need to be freed from this passionate disparity of separation by a love so unconditional that death is only an end to our suffering, not the end of our existence. We need to come out of this guilt and atonement and self-reflection by a miracle so great and powerful that it will change the universe for an eternity from one of sorrow to one of hope and rejoicing.

Hosanna Lord, Hosanna! We need to be saved! We need a resurrection.  

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This page contains a single entry by Cary Bass-Deschenes published on March 24, 2013 9:04 PM.

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The Empty Cross? Sermon - Good Friday 2013 is the next entry in this blog.

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