Thought for Passion Sunday 2020. Ezekiel 37; Romans 8; John 11.
Hi, thanks for coming today … on this short video I’ll be thinking about change and the idea that every change can first be experienced as a loss.
When asked in an interview what was at the heart of the Christian Faith, Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury said that the possibility of change was central to Christian faith. The reference point for this in Christianity is the resurrection – which is the most powerful demonstration that change is possible, for someone to die – properly die, and then two days later be resurrected.
But that example of change, transformation – the resurrection – could only happen because Jesus died. You can’t have resurrection without death, and the coming two weeks, culminating in Holy week and Easter for Christians is a time when we reflect on the death and resurrection of Jesus, and what it means for us today.
So to take this thought further I want to think about loss. The losses that are a part of our everyday lives. Some of them small, but some of them life changing. Falling out with a friend; losing a precious possession; losing our job; getting ill; adjusting to living with disability; bereavement. Living with the daily effects of the current coronavirus.
There are times when the things, the people, the daily things that we took for granted and that we have relied on fail us. This is such a time. Maybe even a time when our faith fails us. That sounds like bad news, like defeat. All our gods have failed us, we have no answers and no solutions. But remember the idea that I started with that every change can first be experienced as a loss.
Which is where I start to think about Good Friday – where Jesus takes things to the absolute limit. Where he willingly goes to the cross. There are a number of ways of trying to see what the death of Jesus might mean. One that doesn’t get talked about much is centred around the cry of Jesus in Matthew’s Gospel – ‘My God, My God, why have you abandoned me.’ This is utter desolation. The one who delighted in calling God his father now dies abandoned – total dereliction. And it’s not a game where Jesus is secretly thinking – this is all going to be OK. At this point in time all is lost. Finished. Over. And here is the mystery of the cross, and the mystery of God.
For Jesus – this absence of God has to be experienced before resurrection can come. Maybe for us it is letting go of everything that gives us security that will open the door us to find God. We do like to be in control – to have answers, to have certainty, and to solve problems. It’s easy to think of God as someone who gives us the answers, solves the problems.
But then we have reduced God to just being cleverer than the cleverest person we can think of, or more powerful than the most powerful person we can think of.
If that’s your idea of God – just let go of it. let go of the need for answers, let go of the need to solve everything. We must all lose our lives in order to find them.
And if we can’t get our heads around the mystery that is God, we look at Jesus – because here is hope – that somehow this God who is beyond us comes to us – embodied, enfleshed. He comes to us in Jesus, and sits with us; weeps with us; comes to set us free from whatever binds us – it might be unbelief. It might be a belief that is too easy, too certain. He comes to set us free from no faith to faith. From misdirected faith in a God that doesn’t exist, from small faith, from mean faith, to something more expansive, more real, more grounded.