Thursday, 18 February 2010

Passion – Lent (1)

What is my passion? That’s a question I’ve been reflecting on as we enter the season of Lent and as I’m reading The Last Week by Marcus Borg and Dominic Crossan. The book explores the final week of Christ’s life as recorded in Mark’s Gospel and in the preface the authors make a comment about Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ:

Borg_Crossan_The_Last_Week_sm The movie had an additional effect. It reinforced a widespread but much too narrow understanding of the ‘passion’ of Jesus. Mel Gibson called his film The Passion of the Christ and based his screenplay on Anne Catherine Emmerich’s The Dolorous Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Both authors understood the term ‘passion’ in the context of its traditional Roman Catholic and broader Christian background. ‘Passion’ is from the Latin noun passio, meaning ‘suffering’.

But in everyday English we also use passion for any consuming interest, dedicated enthusiasm, or concentrated commitment. In this sense, a person’s passion is what she or he is passionate about. In this book we are deliberately playing those two meanings against one another. The first passion of Jesus was the Kingdom of God, namely to incarnate the justice of God by demanding for all a fair share of a world belonging to and ruled by the covenantal God of Israel. It was this first passion for God’s distributive justice that led inevitably to the second passion by Pilate’s punitive justice. Before Jesus, after Jesus and, for Christians, archetypically in Jesus, those who live for nonviolent justice die all too often from violent justice. And so in this book we focus on ‘what Jesus was passionate about’ as a way of understanding why his life ended in the passion of Good Friday. To narrow the passion of Jesus to his last twelve hours – arrest, trial, torture, and crucifixion – is to ignore the connection between his life and his death.

Now I may want to challenge the authors concerning their definition of the Kingdom of God, I think it is much more than fair shares for all, but I am grateful for their reminder that Jesus was passionate about the Kingdom of God and spent his life proclaiming the Kingdom. So I find myself asking what is my passion? Looking at my life, my priorities, my values and my commitments what would others think I am passionate about? And where do the values and priorities of the Kingdom of God fit in?

Chariots of Fire is a film I never tire of watching. It tells the story of a group of athletes preparing to compete in the Paris Olympic games of 1924. One of the athletes is the Scottish sprinter Eric Liddell, a devout Christian who was later to serve as a missionary in China. There is a scene in which Liddell and his sister discuss the impact of his running on his studies, his ministry in Edinburgh and his preparations for China. Liddell tells his sister that he believes that God has made him for a purpose, for China, but he goes on to say that God has also machariots_of_fire_04de him fast and when he runs he feels God’s pleasure coursing through his body. Liddell’s sister struggles to accept what he is saying and it is as if she cannot accept that his passion for running might be from God in the same way as his vocation to be a missionary. I wonder if the church is sometimes experienced as a place where people's passions are undervalued rather than seen as God given.

Over the last few months I’ve been involved in developing some resources on Vocations for use in Chelmsford Diocese. The material is called Your SHAPE for God’s Service and is based on a course developed in Carlisle Diocese. The course encourages people to reflect on their SHAPE; their spiritual gifts, heart’s desire, abilities, personality and experience as part of discerning God’s call to ministry in the Church and in the World. What excites me about the material is that it recognises that our heart’s desire, our passion, is as important in understanding who we are and what God may be calling us to do as the more obvious aspects, for example, our gifts and abilities.

So the question I return to is this; what is my passion and how can that passion serve the Good News of the Kingdom of God?

1 comment:

Joey said...

Looking forward to see the differences between the book and the movie. I'll most likely see if I can find this I am looking forward to see this Xmen soon, hopefully this weekend and definitely before I can find this movies online for free, well worth the big screen costs! first but if not maybe I can rent it?