“Christ Emptied Himself”
Passion Sunday 2020
Today is the great feast of the passion. We hear more of the events of Holy Week at today’s Service than at any other time all year. The events from Palm Sunday through the Saturday vigil of Easter are packed into just one hour of worship this morning. We are undertaking a remembrance of Jesus’ passion and death at breath-taking speed. And not only that, our Lord Jesus goes through a breath-taking transformation; he enters Jerusalem as a king, praised with Hosannas, palm leaves laid down before him. And he leaves the world days later, as a crucified man lain in a grave. The speed of the transformation will be breath-taking. The drama is painful to watch.
We are not good at remaining conscious before such realities. Our focus slips through the long reading of scripture. Our composure slips too as the beloved Jesus is strung up on a cross. However, there is a way to shore-up our flagging spirit. We can take the worshipful attitude of the scripture we have just heard moments ago. We listened to the scripture reading from Philippians earlier– the ancient hymn of the emptying of Jesus Christ, and his exaltation. Jesus gives us a way to retain our consciousness through this sad, somber passion reading today.
Christ Jesus emptied himself, being born in human form, and he humbled himself, even to the point of death. Like our Lord Jesus, can we have the mind of a servant, rather than a powerful master? The church as church is not called to be powerful or god-like, if that means having power over the world. We might like very much to have great influence over the world. But the church is called to be like Christ Jesus, who gave up power and privilege to be in the midst of the suffering world. We are called as a church this morning to be conscious of the suffering of Christ and to have faith in him. We should hold fast in faith together to the suffering love of Christ—the one who gave everything, even his life.
At this time, we might be acutely aware of the struggles of the moment that we face as a church. How do we act in the world when we are physically separated from one another, due to the stay at home order because of the corona virus? We are not in a status quo time! We remain a church that worships and cares for our neighbor– not because of the power of our influence, but because of God’s promise that we have more than enough of everything we need to be a servant church. Underneath the struggles of the moment, and beneath the threats of the times, there is encouragement in Christ himself. There is consolation in love. There is sharing in the Spirit. We have more than enough of the spirit that will see us through hard times.
So, as we listen to the reading of the passion, according to St Mark, let us enter into a consciousness that we are here this morning, a servant church, emptying ourselves (humbling ourselves) because He emptied himself; giving ourselves in love because He gave everything in love.
HERE, THE PASSION OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST ACCORDING TO MATTHEW SHOULD BE READ: MATTHEW 26:14 to 27:66
AFTER READING THE PASSION ACCOUNT:
The gift is given; his life is poured out; but it is as though we have watched from a distance. If we can muster the courage to come together again on
Good Friday, we will participate in the stations of the cross. The stations of the cross, for those who are not familiar, are mediations along the path that Jesus took when he moved from Pilate’s palace to the cross on Calvary. It is moving to watch; We need each other to make the journey through this Holy Week.
We will need to have compassion to take that longer, closer look at Jesus on Good Friday, as he is crucified for our salvation.
Now, together, we slow down from this breath-taking, rapid transformation into the real time of Holy Week. Please do your very best to spend time in the prayerful presence of God. Worshipping and praying during this Holy Week before Easter is the best way that we can empty ourselves of the power of the world, and make ourselves ready to be the servants of Christ.
May it be so.
Rev Ann Marie Winters
March 29, 2020