Title: Passion – Being there | being moved | being known
Date: Night Church. 18th July, 2021
Preacher: Rev Phil Swain
Bible Reading: Romans 6:4-11
We are exploring passion – not the romantic notion of passion but rather the single-minded drive or commitment where we would risk everything and sacrifice everything for. “Something that we would die for”. Passion is something which is all-consuming, powerful and deeply affects us. Kenda Creasy Dean in her book “Practicing Passion” notes that young people are naturally passionate, and that Jesus was also passionate about life, love and people … and so you would think that young people and Jesus would be a natural fit, and yet sometimes we find it hard to get passionate about our faith. In this opening sermon of a 4 part series, we are exploring Kenda’s idea that people long for stability, we want to be part of something extraordinary and we crave to be close and connected … or simply, to there, to be moved and to be known.
Ok … let’s get some interaction happening. Two questions … send them through and we will see if we can get some chatter in the comment section…
What’s your favourite movie ….
But even more particular … what is a great line out of a movie. Can you write a line from a movie in the comment section and see if other people can guess the movie just from the iconic line.
Do you want to try this … Go ahead, make my day!
While you are typing in your favourite movies or iconic lines… let me tell you about a movie that I love. Kevin Costner’s version of Robin Hood. Yes, it is not the greatest of movies, but maybe because it reminds me a great date that Marion my wife before we were married and maybe because the love interest in the movie is named Maid Marion … I do love that movie.
There is a scene in the movie where Marian is being held inside the castle and just to be forced to marry Snape, sorry the Sheriff of Nottingham and she calls out “Robin” … and then … well, let’s watch it.
Did you get that line …
Azeem: Is she worth it?
Robin Hood: Worth dying for.
Now let’s be honest … there is something about that line which stirs us within … and I’m not just talking about the romantics who wants someone to say that they are worth dying for … when we see or hear or meet someone who is so committed to something … whether it is a person, or a cause, or an goal, or love … when we see someone who is so committed that they are willing to die for it, that stirs something within us. It stirs us because if we are honest … we want it too.
We want to be “sold out” for something … something that we would risk everything and sacrifice everything for. We want that that single-minded focus, that drive, that commitment … that … that …. what’s the word for it … PASSION.
Passion is powerful word which has been hi-jacked by the world to refer to sex but it is much, much more than that. It comes from the Greek word Pathos or Latin word Passio and literally means to submit, to undergo an experience, to be completely affected or overwhelmed. The New Testament described Jesus commitment to the cross and willingness to submit to its suffering as the Passion of Christ. Sometimes in the Greek literature passion is described as a dangerous force that interrupts the clarity of reason. Are you getting the picture here? Passion is something which is all-consuming, powerful and deeply affects us.
Passion is also something which those of you under the age of 30 seem to connect with easily. Not to say that older people can’t be passionate, they can … but it seems to come naturally to young people.
You just have to listen to the sort of language that young people or young adults use:
- I’d would give everything for those concert tickets
- That Netflix show was totally, completely awesome
- If we broke up I’d just die
That talk is just full of passion. James E Loder summed this up well when he wrote, “Because of their totalism, their deep ideological hunger, their heightened awareness of their potential non-being, and their sense of urgency about the meaning of life, young people are especially capable of extraordinary commitment, fidelity and self-sacrifice.” Basically he is saying that young people are passionate people. Would you agree with this?
And do you know what the Good News is our God is a passionate God and this passion is reflected in Jesus. Read the Scriptures … almost in everything that Jesus does is full of passion. Jesus had a strong personality, he told Jokes, his friends were all the wrong people, he liked to go to parties. He didn’t start a lepers’ rights movement, he just healed lepers in his path. He was far more severe about people who were judgemental than he was about people who committed adultery. Love was always more important than anything else. Many of his miracles were done of the Sabbath even though that upset people. Jesus was a passionate about people and about discovering the way that leads to life.
Yet even as I speak there is an obvious question … If young people are so full of passion – and if God/Jesus are completely passionate … then that is a perfect match. Yet … why aren’t young people flocking to the church? Why isn’t worship the most passionate thing you do all week?
These are good questions, but I don’t want you to feel guilty.
I believe that the finger needs to be pointed at myself and the institutionalised church. In our attempt to make church a safe place, in our attempt to make people feel affirmed and to not make people feel uncomfortable … we have forgotten to teach people to be passionate. We have forgotten that all people, and especially young people, need opportunities to be passionate, to be impulsive, to make mistakes, to experience atonement.
Tonight and over 3 more sermons scattered over the next 6 weeks, I want to address this whole issue of being passionate and tapping into our passionate God. I want us to find the things in our lives which are worth dying for. I want us to ponder our own faith and whether our faith, whether Jesus is something that we are so passionate about that we would be willing to die for.
To do this I am going to introduce you to a book written by Kenda Creasy Dean called “Practicing Passion”. Kasey said that her goal was to help people (and especially young people) to live passionately … but more than that, to explore what it means to live passionately FOR JESUS. She started by looking at what young people most long for and linking that up with what that would look like if we were living passionately for Jesus.
I am going to explore these in depth in the next three sermons but Kenda came up with 3 things …
- Young people long for stability, especially stability in relationships. They long to be accepted and for those who are close to them to “be there” for them. Why have mobile phones become such a integral part of a young person’s life? Because it provides the ability to be there for others and for their friends to be there for you.
- Young people long for something extraordinary – Kenda calls it ecstasy. They want to be part of something great, they want to be moved, they want to be blown away. Whether it is a concert, or extreme sports, or the supernatural … they want to be part of something extraordinary.
- Young people long for intimacy. There is an element of physical intimacy involved here but for young people it is much more about cama-ra-derie. Why are shows like Friends or how I met your mother or whatever is the more recent versions of these so popular – because it is about having that really close bond with your mates. When you can talk about anything – when you go through experiences together – it is about being known.
Then Kenda links that up with the person and nature of God/Jesus Christ. Have a look at this table
|We long for:||Divine Passion is revealed as God’s:|
|Stability, Acceptance||“being there”||Fidelity|
|Ecstasy, Extraordinary Feeling part of greatness||“being moved”||Transcendence|
|Intimacy, Camaraderie||“being known”||Communion (not bread & wine)|
What Kenda is saying that if we are living for Jesus, our part of longing for Stability and acceptance can be met by God’s fidelity, our longing for some amazing can be met in God’s transcendence and an element of our longing for intimacy can be met communing with God.
Does that make sense? That’s the theory … and over the next 3 sermons we want to look dig down more and apply it at the practical level.
But to finish with, I wanted to go back to Robin’s line to Azeem in Robin hood. What does it mean to find something that is worth dying for…
About 22 years ago something happened which made a huge impact on the young people in churches in America and right across the world. At Columbine High School in Colorado, two teenagers arrived with guns and started shooting. Within hours there were emails shooting around the US and across the world from teenager to teenager telling the story of Cassie Bernall.
According to the emails, one of the gunmen who was randomly killing people walked up to Cassie and asked, “Do you believe in God.” When she said, “yes” he killed her. This tragic story was made into a bestselling book and movie – telling the story of Cassie, the troubled teen who in Jesus had found something to live for that was worth dying for. The book caused a whole lot of soul-searching in Christian young people across the world. As one young person wrote on social media, “I haven’t totally pledged myself to God. When I heard Cassie’s story I realised that she gave up everything. She DIED for him … would I have done the same?”
The Columbine story is a story of passion. The twisted passion of the two boys who felt they had nothing to live for and the holy passion of Cassie’s faith who found that she had something worth dying for.
And so young people around the world, Christians and non-Christians, were all asking the question, “Would you die for your faith?”
As one young person asked, “Is Christianity worth it? Is Jesus worth staking your life on? Because if it is not – if God is not worth dying for – then I’m out of here.”
But listen closely. Behind these youthful ultimatums is a plea:
What they are also asking is, “Please, please tell me it is true. True love is always worth dying for. Please tell me I’m worth dying for. Please tell me someone loves me this much and won’t let me go, even if the Titanic sinks, even if the library explodes, even if the towers fall, even if the world ends. Please show me a God who loves me this much – and who is worth loving passionately in return. Because if Jesus is not worth dying for, then he’s not worth living for, either.”
That is at the heart of what we are going to be working through over the next 3 sermon. I want us to rediscover a God who loves us passionately and is worth loving passionately in return. I want us to discover that Jesus is worth living … and dying for. That Jesus – and the way of Jesus – is something that we can be passionate about.