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candlesBefore the Passion Narrative:

There is much that is darkness in this world… Jesus came into our darkness as light. Into the darkness of our violent world, he came that we might know peace. (1st candle lit here) Into the darkness of our sinfulness, he came that we could find forgiveness. (2nd candle lit here) Into the darkness of our despair, he came to give us hope. (candle) Into the darkness of hatred, he came to call us to mercy. (candle) Into the darkness of selfishness, he came to free us that we could serve with joy. (candle) Into the darkness of our homes, he came that we might love. (candle) Into the darkness of our hearts, he came as life itself. (candle)

(Longer pause)
There was in Jesus nothing that was darkness. There was in him only the light that is love. Yet often, God’s people would choose darkness over light. Today, as we hear the Passion, we remember the beauty of a light that shone so brightly in the person of Jesus. We remember, too, the temptation of darkness even now. And as we listen, we remember that we are to choose again to walk as children of the light.

(AFTER THE PASSION)

We don’t seem to have a very good track record dealing with light, do we? Jesus came, only offering love. Always trying to bring the light of his Father’s love and truth into the world. And for this, we crucified him.

I was struck this year at the opportunities Jesus had to turn his passion into something ugly, something that would respond, not from that serene focus on his Father’s will, but rather from a place of retaliation and hatred.
• before Pilate as he is questioned.
• as the crowd begins to shout for Barabbas – he could have turned them to him.
• before the soldiers as they spit and struck him
• even when Simon helps him bear his cross – we have seen examples of people who lash out and hurt the very ones who are trying to help them.
• finally, upon the cross, as his life blood flows out – there was such the opportunity to curse the Romans, to curse the leaders of the Jewish community, to curse his own disciples for leaving him, even to curse his God as he feels that abandonment upon the cross.

How easy it would have been for him to die angry, embittered and unforgiving upon the cross. How tempting, even for the Son of God, to lash out in his pain, and thus, instead of saving the human race upon the cross, Jesus would have condemned it, condemned US forever.

Yet, not one bit of retribution flows from him, not one word of hatred, nor one syllable of anger or condemnation flow from his spirit or from his lips.

And here is what I know because of that.

I want that same clarity of focus, that same outer-looking, other-centered love to be the story that defines my life, as surely as it defined Jesus’ death.

There was truly within him, NOTHING of darkness – (hold final lit candle in hand) Nothing but the constant and ever expanding choice to bring light to all our human darkness.

This week – sit with that truth. (place candle on middle of altar) Take some time this week, to pause, to slow down, to absorb that light and truth into your hearts. Then his death will truly become the pattern of our living.

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