Seeing the title, “Passion,” you might think that I am entertaining thoughts this morning about those deep emotional feelings aroused by romantic love, or the compelling enthusiasm of artist or writer for their life work. That is typically what we understand the word “passion” to mean these days. But originally passion came from the Latin word passio, which means “suffering.” Christians, for example, speak of the Passion of Christ—his suffering upon the cross.
|Easter Dawning--2014, Grenoble, France|
I believe in a God of love and I express this belief when I say, “Love is at the heart of all things.” But in the course of my life and in my vocation as a pastor, I have witnessed many things which appear to contradict this belief and I find no easy explanation for them. One of these contradictions is human suffering. How can “Love” possibly be found in the grotesque suffering of the people in Somalia, Iraq, and Syria? How can “Love” be seen, known, or experienced in the suffering that comes with mental or physical illness? If “Love is at the heart of all things,” then “Love” must be in these seeming contradictions, including suffering. Even nature can at one time seem to be “all things bright and beautiful,” and at another a ferocious demon destroying thousands of homes and lives (as in Richmond, Texas in recent days).
Although I do not claim to know the answer to all these contradictions, I have found some clues which have helped me deal with them. The chief of these is that I have come to see that the unknowable power behind this universe, and all others, became one of us in the Man Jesus of Nazareth. The World Beyond (Love) broke into this world—Love suffers with us and is always intimately connected with our sorrows and griefs (whether we know it or not).
When people say “all religions are the same,” they are deeply misguided. No other religion comes close to suggesting that the unknowable God became known in a Man, that he suffered pain, disgrace, and death; that he is with us now in all our trials and difficulties. He is the contradiction within the contradictions.