As I mentioned last week, the Heavenly Rest community has spent the season of Lent exploring the Passion of our Lord from a variety of different perspectives. We studied the Passion narrative from John’s gospel, examined artistic renderings of the events surrounding the Passion, learned about the history of the Passion Chorale, and experienced the Stations of the Cross. In other words, we engaged with the story of our Lord’s death intellectually, emotionally, and physically. Tonight, we will gather for a culminating worship service that will bring all of these elements together as we meditate near the cross.
Meditating on the Passion has always been an important component of the Church’s observance of Lent. This is not surprising; the season is intended to prepare us to contemplate the mystery of Christ’s Passion and Death. And throughout the history of the Church, Christians have developed a variety of ways to help people walk the way of the cross with Jesus. Liturgies like the Stations of the Cross give worshipers an opportunity to reflect on how Jesus’ final hours might have felt. Traditions like reading an account of the Passion in the weeks before Easter allow us to hear the story once again. Composers have adapted this tradition by setting the Passion to music; some of the greatest works in music history tell the story of Jesus’ road to Calvary (tonight our choir will sing selections from Johann Sebastian Bach’s Saint Matthew Passion). And artists have created extraordinary works of art that either depict the events of the Passion or attempt to capture the themes of tragedy, suffering, and triumph implicit in the story. There are countless ways for Christians to meditate on the death of Jesus.
This evening’s service at Heavenly Rest draws on several of these resources and is designed to allow participants to offer themselves completely to the experience of our Lord’s Passion. The readings, music, and art were selected to provide worshipers a view into Jesus’ crucifixion and death. It is important for us to remember, however, that we are not meant to meditate on the Passion just to think about how painful it must have been. We are not engaging in a perverse kind of voyeurism where we listen and watch as another human being is tortured to death. Rather, the reason we meditate on the Passion is so that we can consider how the experience might transform us. We meditate on the Passion so that we can consider how our lives have been changed and can be changed by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. We meditate on the Passion so that we can be equipped to make this gospel of transformation known to the world. Above all, we meditate on the Passion in order to remember that God has invited all of us into a new life of abundant love that he makes known to us as we stand near the cross.