What are we to make of that?
It's not, after all, the Sunday when we HEAR one of the Passion gospels read aloud – that comes next week, as a solemn post-script to the triumph of Palm Sunday.
Passion might seem to have little to do with us – a small polite group of Anglicans gathered in the quiet of an 8.00 celebration of Holy Communion – and on the whole we'd probably prefer to keep it at a distance - but it's passion that brings us together.
Not only THE Passion – Christ's suffering on the cross......but, if you like, the passion behind the Passion.
We're here because of God's passion for us – that overwhelming love that brought the universe into being and is endlessly poured out on each and every one of God's children.
We are here because that passion seeks us out relentlessly (the ceaseless pursuit of the Hound of Heaven) and is not content until it has brought about our ultimate salvation...
One dictionary defines of passion as “intense desire” - and indeed it is God's intense desire for us to come into relationship with Him that lies at the root of everything. That desire, that passion, is so great that had you or I been the only person ever born into our world, Christmas, Holy Week and Easter would still have happened – just for us.
But we tend to think of passion as a two way process – the glue that holds a relationship together... so what of our part in the process? What of our passion for God?
Does that exist at all?
Do I – do you - grasp the depths of that love, vast as the ocean?
And, if we grasp it, does it move us in our turn to reckless generosity?
“It is most wonderful to see his love for me so free and sure
but tis more wonderful to see my love for him so faint and poor”
runs a hymn I sang in childhood – and the sad truth is that most often, even when I glimpse the wonder of God's love, I hold back, resist the longing to throw myself into his arms.
I'm don't really understand why – though I guess it has something to do with a core of selfish, rebellious independence...that part of me that fears to be lost in wonder love and praise...even while I know that I will be most fully myself when I am lost in Him.
My better, best self, reading the gospel we've shared this morning identifies completely with Mary, ready to pour out her costliest treasure – that fragrant, wickedly expensive perfume – worth a whole year's wage for a labourer..I long to show Jesus that I can and will give him everything – just as he, in his passion, has given me everything.
I want to show my love in ways that will fill the whole house with a beautiful perfume, so that nobody can miss my extravagant devotion.
That's my best self.
But I know in my heart of hearts that, had I been one of the crowd in that house in Bethany, I would probably have grumbled with Judas about the terrible waste...tutted in disapproval at such public displays of emotion...or looked away, embarrassed at such naked feeling.
I wonder, had I stood at the foot of the cross, if my reaction might not have been similar – for surely there has never been such a public display of longing love since the world began.
I struggle to enter into God's Passion for me, risk remaining forever a spectator as I try to hold onto an independence that is, in the end, worth nothing.
“Whatever gains I had, these I have come to regard as loss because of of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things...”, or, to put it another way,
“whoever tries to keep their life will lose it”.
As we contemplate God's passion for us, let's ask for courage and faith to let go, to fall into those everlasting arms –for then we will discover their strength and their gentleness as they hold us
And let's pray that the words that Isaac Watts wrote more than 300 years ago may come to be an expression of OUR Passion -today and every day
“Were the whole realm of nature mine, that were an offering far too small.
Love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all”