Passion Week, Passion Life
The below appeared in the Sioux Falls Argus Leader newspaper today. I’m reposting it here, because it’s a Holy Saturday-ish set of musings.
This past week, Christians celebrated Passion Week, a week oddly named, apparently, given that Jesus was on his way to death on Golgatha.
The word “passion,” however, comes from the Latin passio, and means (get this) suffering.
Isn’t that fantastic?
The word we normally associate with burning love actually has its root in suffering.
Anybody who has ever loved anyone or anything (Twins fans, anyone?) though, gets it.
Love and suffering go hand in hand.
Maundy Thursday recollects the Last Supper when Jesus offered new mandates, or commandments (the word comes from the Latin mandatum, giving us Maundy Thursday).
One of those commandments was “Love one another as I have loved you.”
Now I’ve always found it bothersome that in the Nicene and the Apostles’ Creeds, Jesus jumps from Mary’s arms into Pontius Pilates’. I realize that they were written for other reasons, but frankly, an awful lot of important stuff happened in that in-between time, like Jesus feeding, healing, forgiving, breaking boundaries, welcoming, teaching, announcing, visiting, and extending mercy.
In these actions, he loved us. Passionately.
That said, Jesus did end up in the arms of Pontius Pilate, with his own arms splayed wide.
For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.
(And by the way, I sure wish that people would hold up placards of John 3:16 and 17 at sporting events).
Suddenly that commandment to “love one another as I have loved you” loses its veneer and compels us not just to walk like Jesus, but to be like Jesus, propelled toward feeding, healing, forgiving, breaking boundaries, welcoming, teaching, announcing, visiting, extending mercy, and dying.
Today Christians sit on the cusp of Easter, the event that gives us our name. It is Easter that gives Jesus his title of Christ.
Calling ourselves Christ-ians means that we commit to being ambassadors of Jesus’ agenda, not our own.
Passionate followers of Jesus know that we are called to reflect our GOD. That’s what following Jesus is, isn’t it? Not just watching where he goes, but going there too, and doing likewise?
“Love one another as I have loved you.”
The life of Jesus is not to be glossed over in a rush to his death. I grew up with a view that did such glossing. It’s as if his life and ministry was merely establishing his bona fides, the requisite legitimacy for the real act which was to die and sacral-legally satisfy the demands of atonement. As if the entire life and death of Christ were not about atonement!
Atonement, or more broadly salvation understood as health, healing, and wholeness for the entire creation. If Jesus took up all of death on the cross, then he didn’t only take sin within him, but illness, depression, loneliness, and the sighs and groans of the entire created world.