Archives for posts with tag: Passion Week

This is Passion Week: from the volatility of Palm Sunday to the violence of Good Friday. I call Good Friday Armistice Day—the day that Jesus put an end to the need for animal sacrifice in worship and also the need for human sacrifice in war.

The Reformation was an important time of church reform but the dark side of the Reformation was that it was also a time of unbridled violence involving the old and crumbling Holy Roman Empire and numerous smaller jurisdictions: German principalities, various independent city states, and unorganized peasant groups—all of them aligned with some reforming and protesting branch of Christianity. Perhaps the most infamous of the violent events was the Munster debacle, climaxing on Easter, 1535. It was a tragic and terrible event that illustrated the extremes of the Anabaptist movement.

Although the Munsterites may have been on the fringes of Anabaptism—a radicalization of a radical movement—the events at Munster became very influential in shaping the theology and practice of Dutch Anabaptists for generations to come. Munster was a defining moment even if it was something to react against. My theory is that the terrible violence at Munster was instrumental in forming the strong pacifist theology of Menno Simons and subsequent generations of Mennonites.

Consider Menno’s own words: “After this happened [the bloodshed at Munster] the blood of these poor misguided sheep fell so hot on my heart that I could not stand it. I saw that these zealous people voluntarily gave their lives and possessions for their [false] faith and beliefs… while I myself continued in my comfortable life simply in order that I might enjoy physical comfort and remain outside the cross of Christ.”

After much agonized soul-searching Menno left the safety of the priesthood and joined the fledgling Anabaptist movement. He wrote about his developing convictions: “Christ is our fortress; patience our weapon of defense; the Word of God our sword; and victory a courageous, firm unfeigned faith in Jesus Christ. And iron and metal spears and swords we leave to those who, alas, regard human blood and swine’s blood about alike.”

And what of the violent debacles in our world today? The situations are much more complex in a global society but some of the roots are the same. Do these situations break our hearts the way the Munster debacle broke Menno’s heart?

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Passion Week moves through all kinds of emotion: from the celebration parade of Palm Sunday to the sorrow of violent death on Good Friday to the surprise of resurrection on Easter Sunday.

Life too is a mixed bag. There are psalms of lament and there are psalms of praise. There are days we mourn death, brokenness, and pain. There are days we celebrate birth, healing, and pleasure. Sometimes in fact they are mixed up with each other. Sometimes in the midst of suffering there are the best parties. We are “dancing in the dragon’s jaws!”

I entered the Lent season with some weariness and despondency this year. Therefore, I decided to do something different this year than give up chocolate or dessert. (I have enjoyed some almost every day of Lent!) I decided to give up wallowing and do something cheery and positive for someone every day. It’s been good for me.

Sometimes people like me say that positivity and celebration in the midst of suffering and death, trivializes the pain, but that is not necessarily the case. We acknowledge that not all is right with the world, but we can put on the “garment of praise” in the midst of that. Just for a moment we are transported to another realm where death and crying and pain shall be no more. We are present to all our passions and the passion of our Lord.

Praise and deep celebration is a healing balm. Sometimes such praise is an act of the will. As I turn my will I am drawn into praise by the presence of my faith community who shares my pain but also lifts me up out of my self-deprecation. I can hardly form the words, but as my feet begin to move and my body begins to sway to the rhythm of the people and the music around me I am transformed by the presence of the Spirit.

We are wretched. We are lost. We are in darkness. God is absent. Yet out of that abyss we cry. And a cry, even of absence, is the cry of faith towards the Faithful One. We celebrate the light even though we see it not. We party the kingdom even though it seems only a mustard seed. Even though my soul is knotted and numb it can unravel with praise. I want to be present to all the passions of Passion Week: the pain, the pleasure, and even the mundane.