Today in Jesus’ life he returned to Jerusalem and the temple. The Pharisees are trying to trick him, the Herodians are trying to trick him, the Sadducees are trying to draw them into the theological debate of the day, a single scribe starts to understand what Jesus is about. Jesus teaches and then teaches some more….and the Pharisees perceive he is teaching against them and strengthen in their resolve to kill him, but fear the crowd, who are currently in thrall. Jesus talks to the disciples privately about the end of the age. (From Mark 11-13)
Last week I reacted rather violently to a church advertising their Holy Week services as “Love Week.” As I’ve been reflecting on my reaction, I realized that part of the problem was my own definition of love. Not only do I perceive love in the way the world does–narrowly, as romantic and sexual love–but I also react against the way I see love defined in the church, particularly mainline churches, where love appears to be the theological underpinning for excusing immoral behavior within the church.
Good. That’s part of it. But I realized there was more to it than that, and understanding came as I read today’s collect:
O God, by the passion of your blessed Son you made an instrument of shameful death to be for us the means of life: Grant us so to glory in the cross of Christ, that we may gladly suffer shame and loss for the sake of your Son our Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. –Book of Common Prayer, 1979.
A Facebook friend rightly pointed out to me in my fuming that Jesus did say “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). Love is the motivation, but the action is the key. Love is not possible without life, and Jesus suffered a shameful death in order that we might have life. Defining love is difficult, if not impossible, which is why we have the salvation story. It illustrates God’s love for us–both his righteous anger at how we have corrupted ourselves and his creation, as well as his tender mercy and longing to be in communion with us. Christ died to rescue us from death itself. Is that love? Yes, but it’s also the supreme sacrifice of God. Doesn’t that say more about what love is than our own limited imaginations?
Lord, help me to enter this Holy Week with open mind, heart and spirit so that walking alongside Christ in his sufferings I might gain a greater understanding of your incomprehensible love. Amen.