Sunday 29th March 2020 – Passion Sunday
John 11: 1-45
Today is the 5th Sunday of Lent, also known as Passion Sunday. It is named Passion Sunday, because as reach closer to Holy Week, we begin to focus more intuitively on the “passion” – the arrest, trial and suffering. The passion ends with crucifixion, Christ’s ultimate suffering and sacrifice for us all. The Passion is enwrapped by longer story and can only be interpreted by Resurrection. The word Passion originates from the Latin word for suffering; the passion is movingly expressed through all four gospels, but also very much in art and music, such as Bach’s St John’s Passion. Although we are disconnected from each other at this time, we can still share in our common worship. To this end, the service sheet enables you to experience the music we would have worshipped with this Sunday via the wonders of the internet.
This year Passion is particularly poignant, as the whole world is faced with the questions of mortality. Each day we hear on the news of thousands of deaths. Even on breakfast news, I heard someone say “In hospital I was faced daily by my mortality” testifying of their experiences of Coronavirus. In our comfortable, materialistic and individualistic society, when even through medical and technological advances, death can be prolonged, suddenly mortality comes a word on the tongues of most people.
For Christians mortality is part of our vocabulary and is measured as microscopic in relation to immortality. On Ash Wednesday by being marked by an ash cross we are reminded “Remember you are dust and to dust you shall return”. We are reminded that this life is a gift from God, short, to be used for his glory and purposes. It begins with repentance and return to the suffering Christ on the cross. As Peter reminds us in his epistle: “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed”. (1 Peter 2:4).
The gospel reading today is very much about facing our mortality in relation to eternity. Mary and Martha, mourning the unexpected death of their brother, Lazarus, received powerful and meaningful consolation from Jesus. He empathises, he understands Mary and Martha’s pain at the suddenness of their brother’s death, yet he offers indescribable comfort and life-giving hope: “I am the resurrection and the life”. He said to them “Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die”.
As we prepare for Holy week, we meditate on the brutal death of Jesus on the cross for each one of us, a death wrought out of human jealousies and power struggles. We are called to use this time aright, to pray, to mediate, to focus on the suffering of Christ for each one of us, as we live in the knowledge of the hope that Jesus offers Mary and Martha, the hope of transformation, that our lives will witness to the transformation of this world through Jesus Christ, incarnate, crucified, risen, ascended.