Unbridled Passion Inside!

Each year as we approach Holy Week, I want to print a large sign to hang outside the church with those three words:
“Unbridled Passion Inside!” Why? Because it’s true! Very early in its history, the church began to call the stories of Jesus’ Last Supper with his disciples, his struggle in the Garden of Gethsemane, his arrest, trial, mockery, and crucifixion, “the Passion of our Lord.” 

While outsiders may be tempted to describe these events as a tragic failure, Christians perceive in them God’s complete identification with us, refusing to be exempt from any part of our experience, including death. God not only shares our life and lot in and through the Incarnation we celebrate at Christmas, coming to us in the vulnerable form of a baby, but then endures all the pain and hardship that life can throw at us in the crucifixion.

But as moving as these events are, they would matter little to us if it were not for the church’s confession that they reveal God’s passionate love for us. The 15th century hymn, Oh, Love, How Deep (ELW 322) captures the personal import of the events we remember. After telling of Jesus’ wondrous incarnation, the hymn’s author, Thomas à Kempis, reminds us that everything Jesus did was “for us”:

For us baptized, for us he bore His holy fast and hungered sore;
For us temptation sharp he knew; for us the tempter overthrew.
For us he prayed; for us he taught; For us his daily works he wrought,
By words and signs and actions thus, still seeking not himself but us.

And then à Kempis draws to the climax of the matter:

For us by wickedness betrayed, for us, in crown of thorns arrayed,
He bore the shameful cross and death; for us he gave his dying breath.

All for us. This, then, is the Passion of our Lord. Sometimes, however, I wonder if we have become numb to this surprising, even shocking display of love. We have heard the story before, been to countless Holy Week worship services, and are so very familiar with the overall story. “Yes,” we may be tempted to think, “Jesus suffers and dies, and then is raised again on Easter. Nice. But kind of old news.” And then we get on with what really matters to us: raising our kids, paying the bills, keeping our loved ones safe, making ends meet, figuring out our future, perhaps just getting through the day with a measure of hope. What does Christ’s “Passion” have to do with all this?

In a word, EVERYTHING. Because of what our Lord endured, we realize that God knows what it is like to be afraid, to lose hope, to feel abandoned, even to despair. We learn that God understands what it is to be human and cares about what we care about. We discover that God will go to any lengths to communicate God’s profound love for us. And we are reminded that God will never abandon us, accompanying us through all things – big and small, weighty and 
mundane, difficult or joyful, even through death itself – to bring us out on the other side. The Passion of our Lord reminds us that God is with us and for us forever. And then the resurrection promises that God’s love and life are more powerful than all the sorrow, fear, or death the world may throw our way.

Open yourself to the Passion once again, be willing to be honest about what is difficult or fearful in your life just now, and allow God not just to comfort you but to embrace you. I promise that this year’s Lenten, Holy Week, and Easter services will reintroduce you to the message that pierces even the numbest of hearts with the vibrant, pulsing good news of our Lord’s passion, struggle, and victory.

So come to the remaining Lenten Truth Talks to confront difficult issues together. Listen to Dubois’ Seven Last Words  of Christ Wednesday of Holy Week and be moved once again by our Lord’s suffering and sacrifice. Re-live the final meal Jesus shared with his disciples and remember how their faith shaped their destiny at the Living Lord’s
Supper on Maundy Thursday at both campuses. Experience the Passion of our Lord at our Good Friday services and behold once again God’s profound love for all of us. And then come to Easter to hear the ancient and still timely cry that “Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!” 

Come. And, indeed, invite a friend to join you, for this news is too good not to share. And having come to witness the suffering and triumph of our Lord, be prepared to be not just encouraged, but changed, even transformed, as you witness the unbridled love and Passion of our Lord … for you!

Pastor Lose
David J. Lose, Senior Pastor