Sunday 21<sup>st</sup> March 2021 Passion Sunday
Jeremiah 31: 31-34 (NIV)
“The days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will make a new covenant
with the people of Israel and with the people of Judah. <sup> </sup>It will not be like the covenant I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke my covenant, though I was a husband to<sup> </sup>them, declares the Lord. “This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel after that time,” declares the Lord. “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. No longer will they teach their neighbor, or say to one another, ‘Know the Lord,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,” declares the Lord. “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.”
Hebrews 5: 5-10
So also Christ did not glorify himself in becoming a high priest, but was appointed by the one who said to him, “You are my Son, today I have begotten you”<sup> </sup>as he says also in another place, “You are a priest forever,
according to the order of Melchizedek.” <sup> </sup>In the days of his flesh, Jesus<sup> </sup>offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to the one who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. <sup> </sup>Although he was a Son, he learned obedience through what he suffered; and having been made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him,<sup> </sup>having been designated by God a high priest according to the order of Melchizedek.
John 12: 20-33
Now among those who went up to worship at the festival were some Greeks. They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and said to him, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.”<sup> </sup>Philip went and told Andrew; then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. <sup> </sup>Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. <sup> </sup>Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honour.
“Now my soul is troubled. And what should I say—‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour. <sup> </sup>Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.” The crowd standing there heard it and said that it was thunder. Others said, “An angel has spoken to him.” Jesus answered, “This voice has come for your sake, not for mine. <sup> </sup>Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out. <sup> </sup>And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people<sup> </sup>to myself.” He said this to indicate the kind of death he was to die.
Unless a grain of wheat dies it will not bear fruit – this part of the gospel reading led me to the picture of a passionflower via the Maori symbol of the Kora. The Kora – silver fern frond – a loop or a coil which depicts New Life, New Growth and Strength – perpetual movement and Peace and then it returns to its point of origin…an eternal loop…
Death and new life – the Passionflower draws us into the invitation to the seed of the Passion of Christ himself.
The Old Testament reading for today Jeremiah 31: 31-34 – A New Covenant – law within us – write it on our hearts. Remember our sin no more. Iniquities forgiven…the seeds of new life…blossom from the ground of our faith which is a gift to us…that is the core of this passion.
John 12: 20-33 – Grain of wheat dying to live and be fruitful… and nourishing.
Passion is a glorious word – whichever way we speak it, it expresses what it means?
The word however has a number of expressions of meaning..
Strong and barely controllable emotion – i.e. a person of impetuous passion – like us losing our temper.
A state or outburst of strong emotion – speech in which a person gradually works themselves up into a passion – public oratory from the heart.
Intense physical love.– their all consuming passion for one another….and in this last couple of weeks we have seen passions rise over the violent death of Sarah Everard and the importance that all people are valued and protected from harm so they can flourish and grow.
An intense desire or enthusiasm for something – what passions still make us burn for truth and, justice and new life?
The passion that never leaves me in all the conversations of those who I have listened to over time. Those moments when they have shared the journey of facing their own mortality. Very often they described the facing of their own death and the whole of life taking on a new vibrancy and urgency. The gift of life itself realised in a new way. Reflections on regret and purposefulness to be reconciled with nearest and dearest. Also the sharing of troubled souls. These are transformational moments. Those moments take me to the Gospel of Jesus in the steps of his Passion. Here we see Jesus working through the imagery of natural life and death and giving up our selves to experience the fullness of life. Then he admits his vulnerability that his soul is troubled and that he might be saved from this hour of passion – but no – ‘glorify your name my Creator’ and God says that it already has as Jesus gives up his soul and body to the transformational will of God.
The suffering and death of Jesus – meditations on the passion of Christ – includes the gospels and the musical settings of the biblical account of the Passion of Christ… we can be high and lifted up…with Christ himself in all the offerings that come at this time of year.
Passion is from the middle English – from Old French, from late Latin passio and Pati which means to suffer……
Passion Sunday – the fifth Sunday of Lent is where we are invited to enter Passiontide….it is a change of gear, going deeper into the mystery of Christ’s passion ….it is an opportunity to be ready, rather than unprepared for Palm Sunday and Holy Week…..covering the crucifix….to enhance the impact of Good Friday…..so, for forty days those trying to follow the way of Jesus Christ are invited both to explore what it means to be in the desert and, in the words of my mentor Michael Perham ….”Please God, finding it to be not just a place of testing but a place of growth and grace and also to be on a journey that is moving steadfastly towards Jerusalem and the events that changed the world and have the potential to transform the lives of those who share the journey…….” (The Way of Christlikeness……2016……) This time of pandemic is part of our journey of passion.
I have a story of the passion flower – the gift from a lady patient who wanted to say thank you to the Chaplaincy team who had cared for her as she faced up to terminal illness, giving a gift of her propagated passion flowers…..she lived for another year and saw the covering of the Chaplaincy Chapel wall with stunning flowers – the passion wall which meant a lot to many – identifying where suffering and creativity meet. She knew through her experience of facing up to her mortality what was important and to rediscover the essence of her life in her reflective times. Her whole life and its quality changed because everything became more vivid and vital and not taken for granted. Our times of Covid give us this insight when we have seen what is most important to us again and again when we have seen so much loss around us.
*The La Mortella Gardens on Ischia off the Amalfi Coast – Sir William Walton and his wife Susan……this where the picture of the passionflower was taken – the six-tiered garden with a concert auditorium overlooking the Amalfi coast…a high perspective…For those of us who love the music of William Walton it was a surprise to us that he wrote the music for the film Richard 111 with the lead taken by Laurence Olivier. Six years on since his re interment. This brought a whole different perspective to the passionflower on the beautiful island of Ischia! An intense desire or enthusiasm for something – the English have a passion for gardens…!
When I had a fresh look at this passionflower I had imagined to myself. The five petals were for me the five wounds of Christ, four by nails and one from a lance. Then I looked it up on the Kew Gardens website and traditionally the outer tendrils represent the whips used for the flagellation of Jesus.
For me the three stigmas in the centre represent the trinity and the Crown (the Corona) represent the crown of Christ as well as the Crown of Thorns which is also the tradition of South America where the flowers originate.
As we reflect upon Passion and the Passionflower may we be transported more deeply into the fullness of life as we walk the steps of the passion of Jesus the Christ in the Passiontide.
A truth that can be seen – we are high and lifted up with Him – a covenant - write my law on their hearts-and I will be their God, and they will be my people…..forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more. Transformation indeed.
Seeing life and a landscape of suffering in a different way, whether from a high place….or a low place in these days wherever…
What makes us burn for justice, truth and new life?
So, we arrive back to the Passionflower and the Kora – the spiral of eternal truth……we come full circle together at the start of Passiontide…Amen
Canon Edward Pogmore