On The Road to the Cross: Passion John 12: 1-8

Palm EntranceWe like this Sunday because everybody likes a parade.  Reenacting the pageantry, processing with palms, and singing loud hosannas makes for a joy filled day.  Most of us prefer to jump from this Sunday to next Sunday, skipping those last 24 hours Jesus endured on his way to the cross.  Jesus didn’t just go through the motions on cruise control; he experienced great emotion.  He did not turn back, hedge bets, or calculate the risk-reward ratio as he faced these last days.  Jesus put his whole self into his Passion Week; expressing passion despite the sufferings that led to his death.

Jesus’ expressed passion in all things.  He was no spectator of sideshows or casual consumer of pleasures; he drank deeply from each moment.  We see passion when he talked theology with scribes or played with children.  We see passion when he healed a blind man or insured wedding guests had enough spirits for the occasion.  He didn’t measure pennies; planning for an unknown future.  Every moment was a gift, lived with passion.Passion for Life

We can slip into a spiritual coma, go through a religious routine; walking in a faithful fog; waking up at regularly scheduled highs: Easter, Mother’s Day, Thanksgiving and Christmas, when it’s safe to be passionate about holy things.  We’re not unlike Jesus followers who missed his passion, though right in front of them.  Jesus’s embodiment of passion grants us permission to live our lives with the same kind of holy passion.

This woman felt permission to express her passion; seeing beneath the surface what others missed.  The scene occurs at Simon the leper’s home.  She comes up from behind Jesus with an alabaster flask of pure nard.  Alabaster comes from Albas, Egypt,  It’s a fine white gypsum powder that was used to make translucent ceramic vessels.  Nard comes from a plant that grows in the Himalaya foothills.  It was the Chanel No. 5 of its day, a pound of nard would cost the average worker 300 days of wages.

The woman wasn’t aware of implications of her deed, she’s aware of the passion she felt and expresses it at the risk of misunderstanding.  She may have been confused about her feeling for Jesus, but Jesus assumed the best of her intentions; and accepts the gift, commends her passion as she abandoned self for the sake of the one she loved.  He points out her passion-filled act served a useful purpose–it anointed his body for death.

AnoitsThe others had a quick fiance meeting and figured the cost of the perfume and her unholy extravagance, suddenly concerned for the poor.  They question her motives; but Jesus knew how she was a threat to their lack of passion.  He extols the woman as a model of rightful passion; making the one they believed irresponsible to be a good steward of holy passion.

Passion is a quality we adore in children, marvel at in artists, long to rekindle in romances, and recognize in people who are great.  Passion is not just reserved for God alone.  It’s a divine quality expressed in human form.  You and I are to act with passionate faith .  We’re to offer ourselves in passionate ways for the sake of others like our Savior and this woman.  Passion gives itself fully to God and others, not worrying if it is wasteful, trusting in God’s redemptive ability that is motivated by love for each of us.

We’ve experienced selfless and risky passion.  When we tell our spouse we want to marry, there is no turning back, even if they say no.  When I said yes to God’s call, the passion of service consumed me.  The books, news, and relationships I choose are driven by that passionl.  You can’t be passionate about too many things.  Those passions cause other things to suffer.  I won’t play golf the way I aspire or be gourmet cook I imagine. Take A chance

The late sports writer Red Smith said, “Writing is easy, you just sit down, open a vein, and go to work“.  We’re accustomed to protecting ourselves, so we don’t open the vein; making us a fool.  The promise of joy in living our lives passionately is greater than the pain we feel in displaying passion.

There are farmers in West Africa, who live this kind of passion each year.  The arid Sahel region is a 4000 mile stretch of savanna, south of the Sahara.  Moisture comes in the four-month period of May, June, July, and August.  During the next eight months not another drop of rain falls.  The ground cracks along with hands and feet.  The wind throws dust thousands of feet in the air; settling in mouthes, watches, clothes and everything else.  The years food supply of sorghum and milo is grown during those four months.  They plant the crops in fields no larger than this sanctuary.  There are no tractors or cultivators because the annual income is about $500.00 a person. The tools are the strength of their backs and a shorthanded hoe.

SahelIn October and November, the granaries are full; people eat two meals day-one mid-morning after being in the field and the other after sundown.  The meal consists of sorghum ground between two stones made into a flour that’s cooked, made into a mush the consistency of yesterday’s cream of wheat.  The mush is rolled up into little balls and dipped in a sauce.

December comes and the granaries recede and the less fortunate begin to omit the morning meal.  By January, not one family in fifty is eating two meals a day.  By February, the evening meal diminishes and people feel the clutch of hunger.  By March, children begin to suffer; succumbing to sickness because you can’t stay well on a half meal a day.

At dusk, sounds carry for long distances; there is no ambient noise to break the stillness.  You can hear babies cry in the twilight as their mothers’ milk goes dry.  Parents go to the bush; scraping bark from trees, digging roots, and collecting leaves to make a gruel.  Sometimes, they pawn a chair, a cooking pot, or a bicycle tire in order to buy a little grain from the wealthy.  Most days are passed with only an evening cup of grain.  Cooking in Africa

Occasionally, a pathetic scene happens as a child is outside and notices a pouch in the barn.  He looks in the pouch and notices handfuls of grain.  He runs shouting, “Mama, I’ve found grain, prepare a meal so our tummies can sleep tonight!”  His father hears the commotion and stands speechless before his hungry child.  He explains, “Son, we can’t eat that because its next years seed grain, the only thing between us and starvation.  We’re waiting for the rains and we will use it to plant.”  The rains arrive in May.  The father goes to the field, the boy watches his father do the unimaginable; instead of feeding his family, he scatters the seed in the dirt.

Passion is giving our life to a higher source, not worrying about outcomes.  What are we willing to get lost in doing?  Is there anything or anyone who claims the deepest part of our hearts and we’re willing to suffer for it or them?  Is there anyone or anything whom we would risk looking foolish or appear wasteful to express love for it or them?  That’s the passion we find in this woman and the passion needed to live into this Passion Week.

Baby's SmileStart small; express a little passion over a sunset, a child’s first steps, or a teens first date, a friends marriage or re-marriage, a co-workers promotion, or a family members medical report.  Life and people; success and failures; joys and sorrows is what we drink from in life.  We’ll never be satisfied if we hold back, play it safe, figure and scheme.  We can offer our passionate self as this woman and as the one we walk with on this Passion Week.

The best way to show our love for Christ is to show ourselves to be a loving fool.  It may scare us to be seen as such a person because our false self seeks to protect the ego.  We can find our true self if we’ll face what we fear and plunge ahead; living life with passion by giving ourselves fully to God and others.  Others may think we’re wasting life.  God knows what to do with a life offered with passion.  We know the ending of Passion Week. the road that begins with passion ends with a resurrection.  Be passionate: Life is not a dress rehearsal!


Published in: on March 27, 2013 at 2:56 pm  Leave a Comment  

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