Tag Archives: passion

A passion: Deaths and wonders

At times last year, my spiritual director must have felt he was riding a bucking bronco when we met. We sold our family home of 25 years, totally rehabbed the new condo, which was probably the most disastrous rehab we ever experienced, then said good-bye to my hired role in Circle of Hope – mostly during a pandemic and an election circus! Maybe my director was fine, but I still feel like I may have hit the dirt a few too many times. Fortunately, I have some rodeo clown friends and a cowboy family to pick me up.

When I drag in, looking a bit dusty and dazed, my director will often respond to one of my stories with, “It’s a ‘passion.’” He does not have a ready definition for what he means by “a passion,” and I am not much for defining spiritual experiences anyway. But I think I might understand what he means more all the time as I experience the little deaths that lead to new life. As I endure the indignities that accompany the joys of transition, my life keeps teaching me. Like Paul says:

And as for us, why do we endanger ourselves every hour? I face death every day—yes, just as surely as I boast about you in Christ Jesus our Lord. If I fought wild beasts in Ephesus with no more than human hopes, what have I gained? If the dead are not raised, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.” (1 Cor. 15:30-32)

What Paul is doing is a “passion.” He writes with a passionate heart about risking it all on the hope of resurrection.

Facing death is normal Christian life. It is so wonderful we can face it in the distant future with confidence. Most most of us think we’ll be alive a lot longer, so that confidence is easier and no less comforting for being so. It is also wonderful we can face the “wild beasts” in the present with confidence. That’s usually more difficult and often feels comfort-challenged.

In Paul’s story above, the enigmatic reference to “wild beasts” probably refers to the riot started by the silversmiths in Ephesus who thought Paul’s gospel would wreck their lucrative trade in honor of the religious power, Artemis, who ruled the area. I wish I were more like Paul, but at least I know what it is like to face power struggles with blinded people who think Jesus is no more than an alternative fact, at best. You undoubtedly have such struggles, too, at whatever level you struggle.

In facing what seem to us like death-dealing forces, we are like Jesus being attacked in John 10. His opponents are ready to stone him, and he says, “I have shown you many good works from the Father. For which of these do you stone me?” I think my director would call that moment “a passion.” In the face of the violent, judgment-wielding world, we speak the truth in love. If we die that day, just a little or for the last time, we do.

The Elements of Holy Communion — Jacques Iselin

The death and wonder in the communion meal

It does not seem accidental that bread and wine are central to how we understand the crucifixion and resurrection this week. They are symbols of transformation. The grapes are crushed and reduced. When they “die” their inner juice and flavor are released. Then in the darkness we wait for them to become new wine. Likewise, simple flour with a little water and salt becomes many variations of bread. Add yeast and the whole lump of dough expands and becomes new. In the transformation into the food that feeds us there is a death of the old and the wonder of the new.

When our own transformation passion is working in us it is a bit more traumatic, isn’t it? It is painful for us to feel crushed, even when we know the newness is being released. And we don’t like being expanded, or stretched, even though it is the process of welcoming that wonderful fullness for which we have been longing all along. And when it comes to being the bread of life with Jesus, that can seem like a bit much.

Last week, when I saw my director, I could not tell if I was stuffing my pain or dampening my wonder. Both actions would be good ways to try to avoid dying that day. Pain reminds us we are going to die – severe SMH. I want to shut pain out. And wonder reminds us of why we don’t want to die – severe FOMO. I want to keep wonder in. Yet I don’t want to wall off my heart. I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings,  becoming like him in his death,  and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead. Paul actually said that in Philippians 3, but I say it too.

Our passion in the Holy Week

I don’t want to die. But I certainly want to live. So I always need a Lent to teach me about passion — the Lord’s and mine and ours. I keep learning that living is giving – whether Jesus is about to be stoned, or Paul is fighting wild beasts, or we are facing societal breakdown, or we face all those other breakdowns: mental, physical, and relational. I don’t mean we give because we are afraid to die, although that may be where we start. I mean we give because we know we are alive and will live forever. It isn’t, “If I give I will live.” It is, “I give because I live.” I like living. Giving is living.

This week is all about how dying leads to rising, how living is giving. As my Lenten guide, Alan Jones says:

We are made in the image of God who gives himself away. [We are made in the image of God who gives herself away]. The mystery of that self-giving is what Easter is all about. The closer we get to our destination the closer we are to the crucifixion. Holy Week and Easter are not the only times when we remember God’s Passion for us. They also invite us into our own passion. Lent is a long period of reality-testing that questions our view of ourselves and the world. (In Passion for Pilgrimage: Notes for the Journey Home)

That testing has surely been happening to me. Maybe we have all been experiencing a pandemic-long “lent” that is testing who we are and questioning the world in which we live. If so, maybe a big resurrection is about to dawn. I hope so. The Holy Week calls us to show up and endure the process, especially if we missed the rest of the season!

The situation in the country is giving us lots of opportunity for a reality test. But my experience seems more acute than an assessment of where society should be going. My daily dying won’t be something that works back on me from what is happening in the world.  I’m already happening. Resurrection is already loose in the world. My profound actions will not make it happen. To the contrary, my grapes are being crushed and the yeast of God’s Spirit is expanding me.

Some days I don’t think I can die any more or rise any more. Perhaps when I feel that way my wine is taking some time to ferment and my dough is resting. But by this time in my life, I often know that despair might signal Easter is coming. Ready or not, a resurrection is imminent, as surely as the daffodils are coming up to bloom and, as a church, we keep turning our faces into Spring.

The alternative to politics: take hold of that for which Jesus took hold of me

This election is killing me. I want to stay away from it, but I am fascinated. I may even watch the final debate tomorrow. Like the proverb says: As a dog returns to its vomit, so fools repeat their folly.”

trump-salks-hillary

On the one hand I am fascinated by Hillary Clinton, the first woman president. What fire it takes to do what she is doing! She was criticized by the pundits after the last debate for not “taking Trump out.” She was criticized for somehow not bullying Donald Trump! Just that one criticism kills me, among the thirty years of investigation she has been under. She was the most admired woman in the world before she decided to run for president, now she gets journalistically groped every day. It takes courage and passion for us all to stand up and do what we need to do. She’s got it.

On the other hand, I am appalled that we are paying so much attention to two bonafide members of the one percent duking it out to be king or queen of the elite. Hillary Clinton is so cozy with the world’s domination system it would be surprising if she manages to see outside the bubble. The people at the top really think they own the world and need to take care of it. At least Donald Trump is generally despised among the elite as a brash idiot who can’t help opening the curtain and exposing all the secrets. We all tune in and suck up the illusion that we are not their slaves. Many people believe that one of them is somehow going to represent their interests.

So I am getting killed. But I am also rising from the dead as a result. The whole spectacle gets me fired up for Jesus, since it is making it so obvious that we need some alternativity around here. We need a Savior and we have one. The whole mess inspires me to burn like Hillary and to take seriously all the opposition a burning person gets. We Jesus followers, we alternative makers need to burn with passion, burn with the Holy Spirit, and burn with industry as the people of God. People who follow Jesus in the next five years have a Hillary-like task ahead of us, complete with bullies stalking us and trying to make us afraid enough to dominate.

fire-in-handIt is time to burn. We need to be our true selves and the world needs us to be. If we are fearful in the face of our opposition so be it. We’ll still need to follow Jesus, and see what happens. We need to give what we have been given.

Humble but ambitious

We need to be humble but ambitious like Paul taught the Philippians to be — Not that I have already obtained all this [fullness I am talking about], or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. All the ways to picture our empowering relationship with God are inspiring!

  • I lay hold of that for which I was laid hold of.
  • I embrace it just as I have been embraced.
  • I apprehend that for which also I am apprehended.
  • I win that which Jesus Christ has already won for me.
  • I make it my own because Christ Jesus has made me his own.

I want to receive what I have been given. I want to give what I been given. That is burning in the new-life-in-Christ sense.

At some point we just have to do something. We need to give what we have been given. Let ourselves burn with the fire of the Spirit, go with it. We have the capacity to do that built in. We are not just what we’ve derived from the chemicals fermenting inside. We are also what our fiery relationships with God ignite. It has always been time to do something. But now it is just painfully obvious. The candidates are doing us a favor but making it all plain. The disconnected, vain elites are wounding the system they dominate so badly it will be limping for years. As Jesus followers, we embody the alternative as we trust Jesus and one another.