Where the Incarnation of Christ meets
the essential experience of the Church.
The church refers to the last week of Jesus’ mortal life as “The Passion of Christ”, as in the movie by the same name. The Passion is understood as the name for Jesus’ suffering and death during what we call Holy Week, beginning with Palm Sunday and leading us through the Last Supper on Thursday and up to the crucifixion at Golgotha on Good Friday. We then remember that Jesus remained three days in the grave before he was raised from the dead into the Resurrection.
The word passion has the Latin root pati, then passio, meaning “to suffer.” It later came to mean any deep and intense feeling, no doubt owing to the fact that when we feel any emotion intensely, whether joy, sorrow, love, hate, etc, there is a kind of suffering – it hurts, we feel it so deeply. And so in our culture we use the word passion most frequently in reference to romantic and sexual intimacy.
Passion is the root feeling of deepest connectedness. Without connection, there is no passion. As we look toward the passion of Jesus, we must also look to the ways of connectedness. How is Jesus connected to us? How are we connected to one another? How are we connected to God through our relationship with Jesus? Jesus came to lead us back to God – to help us see, understand, navigate and travel the road back to God, which is also the road back to us, the “road back to you.”
These are the theme ideas we will explore during Lent:
Exploring our connectedness:
And conversely, our disconnectedness…
More broadly, where do you see connection and disconnection happening in the world around you? What thoughts, beliefs, words, and actions of individuals, groups, governments and systems either promote and enhance connectedness or disrupt it and foster disconnection?
What images, scenes and experiences illustrate either connection or disconnection? What scenes from movies, theatre, or TV? What songs? What poetry or fiction? What historical biography?
If you were to enact something that grounded and conveyed the experience of connectedness, disconnectedness or reconnection, what might that be?
* Image credit: http://www.gapingvoidart.com/gallery/make-a-connection-decal/
Where did you first encounter true love? Ideally it would have been in your family of origin. Held in the loving arms of your mother, father, grandparents, siblings, aunts and uncles. Embraced by your community.
You probably don’t remember the embrace of love that proceeded that. The embrace in which God held you in your mother’s womb. That should have been the experience of greatest embrace. All the rest of our lives we are in the pursuit of that same encounter of True Love.
Our move toward God is a continual reaching in response to God’s offer of all embracing love – True Love. Jesus Christ comes to us as the fullness of this embrace in human form. Jesus not only draws us in Love, but also sends us in Love until all encounter God’s Love in that full embrace.
Where people remain outside this embrace, our work remains incomplete. Where we hold people away, or withhold love, our repentance remains incomplete. Where we are limited and stunted in our own experience of God’s embrace, our salvation remains incomplete.
In all of this, Jesus comes with light and hope to share the Love of God.
Many of us live with the tension between our immediate needs and desires and our long-term goals and best interests. Some people are so busy working toward something or goal that they miss attending to the people and situations and joy of life right in front of them. Other people are so attuned to the joy and pleasure of the present moment that they completely neglect planning for the future. Fullness is found somewhere in between.
So too with the call of God upon our lives to work for justice and righteousness. If you have the ability to feed the hungry person in front of you and do not do it, then what does that say about your love for God? At the same time if you feed that person but pay no regard for why they're hungry and what that says about the systems and structures of our culture, then what does that say about your love for God?
People like to offer up the phrase about teaching a man to fish versus giving a man a fish. That's all well and good, but teaching someone to fish takes a long time and a hungry person can't wait to learn how to fish. They will learn much better on a full stomach. So the answer is not either or but both and. Give a man a fish, and then after he's eaten… Teach him how to catch more fish and even how to teach his neighbors to do the same.
The Ten Commandments are given in Scripture (Exodus 20 & Deuteronomy 5) as God's essential guidance for human conduct. It's worth noting that the first three Commandments are about our relationship with God, the last six about our relationship with other human beings. And the fourth serves as a bridge. Keeping of the Sabbath is both about our worship of God and our respect for all around us: ourselves, our neighbors, our employees even the animals that are part of our lives. All of creation deserves and needs Sabbath rest.
True righteousness is found when we live with attention both to our relationship with God and our relationship with creation others and self. We must look both to the long and the short term interests of ourselves, one another and the world. What do justice and righteousness look like in the immediate context? What does long term systemic justice require of us, now and into the future? Our righteousness is incomplete unless we attend fully to both.