10 April 2022

The Liturgy of the Passion, from Luke’s perspective, is not just about the suffering of Christ. It is also about Jesus’ presence in our suffering, and about us sharing Christ’s suffering by serving and caring for suffering people around us. It will not take much more than the Scriptures themselves to get these complementary messages across, and it may be wise to allow the service to be more meditative than preaching-focussed.

May our meditation on the suffering of Jesus lead us into lives that share in the pain of, and bring healing to, places of suffering in our world.

Isaiah 50:4-9a
: A prophecy of the obedient servant, beaten and mocked, but vindicated by God.

Psalm 31:9-16: The cry of God’s servant, persecuted and beaten.

Philippians 2:5-11: Jesus’ humility and obedience in his incarnate, crucified life, and God’s exaltation of Christ.

Luke 22:14-23:56: Jesus’ journey to death, from the last supper, to his burial.
Luke 23:1-49: Jesus is tried before Pilate and Herod, and crucified.

The Liturgy of the Passion is, quite simply, a meditation on the suffering of Jesus. But, in the Psalm reading, we are also invited to reflect on God’s solidarity with all who suffer, in the Epistle, we are called to view Christ’s passion as an example for us to follow. In addition, two particular narratives stand out in the Lukan account of Christ’s passion. Firstly, Luke places the dispute over who is the greatest here, at the Last Supper, which, when placed alongside the Philippians reading, drives home the servant nature of Jesus’ death, and the call for us to embrace the same self-giving life. Secondly, only Luke includes the account of the penitent thief on the cross who asks Jesus to remember him. The response of Christ to this man, in the midst of his own suffering and persecution, demonstrates very dramatically, the extent to which the loving, serving grace of Christ reaches, and the extent to which we are called to serve and love others in Christ’s name. In the light of this, the Liturgy of the Passion, this year, invites us into a deep and transforming journey into Christ’s suffering, Christ’s presence in our suffering, and Christ’s call for us to share his suffering. It’s not just about the passion of the Christ – it’s about the passion of the followers of the Christ as well!

GLOBAL APPLICATION: In the Liturgy of the Passion the clear call to find God in places of suffering, and to stand with all who suffer comes through very strongly in the Scriptures. It is often tempting to view health, wealth and happiness as God’s blessing, and see suffering as the result of some sin on the part of the victim. This view has been used to excuse callous disregard for the poor, for AIDS sufferers, for victims of natural disasters, and even those who are killed in war or mass shootings. However, in the light of the readings this year – and Luke’s particular emphasis in his Gospel – such a view becomes untenable, and the call to experience God in suffering – both our own and that of others – speaks compellingly. And once this call has been heard, we cannot avoid the additional call to serve and love those who suffer in Christ’s name. Although a short homily may be offered, it may be advisable to allow the Scriptures the space to speak on their own, and allow God’s Spirit time to do the work of transformation without feeling that we need to manage or “drive” it. It may also be good to allow this meditation to be as interactive as possible, giving people time to bring their suffering to Christ, and inviting people to hear the call to be agents of Christ’s compassion to those who suffer in our world.

LOCAL APPLICATION: The clear, comforting message of God’s initiative in coming to us in our pain – whatever that pain may be – comes through very clearly in the Passion narrative and accompanying Scriptures this year. For many who have experienced suffering, or been shocked by some of the world’s tragic and horrific events, this comforting word can be deeply healing. In addition the call to participate in this comforting, healing work of God can be both challenge and inspiration, and can motivate people to engage more intentionally in the suffering of their families, neighbourhoods and communities. Much of this work can be done, though, with little more than a meditative, mindful encounter with the Scriptures. If the Liturgy of the Passion is combined with the Liturgy of the Palms, there is the additional challenge to recognise that God’s Reign seeks to subvert the systems of our world that cause or exacerbate suffering. Once again, the Passion on which we meditate is not just that of Jesus, but of ourselves.

If Not For Your Embrace Of Death
The Mystery Of Your Love
No Dying Today
What Life Can Be

Hymn Suggestions:
O Sacred Head Now Wounded
O Love Divine What Hast Thou Done
Jesus! The Name High Over All
Depth Of Mercy
And Can It Be
Once Again (Link to YouTube video)

A Short Liturgy for Maundy Thursday (Although designed for Maundy Thursday, this liturgy can also be a fit for Passion Sunday)

Video Suggestions:
His Passion
The Last Painting