The commemoration of the Passion

Who would have thought this would happen? That we are asked not to come together anymore as a congregation to commemorate Jesus’ Passion on Good Friday. Here we are as a small community in an empty church and you are at home. We are separated from one another. Let us not forget that we do this out of love. We stay at home to save lives, our own but even more so the lives of others and so that we not burden furthermore the already overstretched health service. Maybe we can use this strange alienating experience to get a deeper understanding of Jesus’ suffering.

His passion was a very lonely and painful journey. The last time he was touched with warmth and kindness was probably at the last supper, after that he was on his own. His disciples couldn’t stay awake. And Judas… he used a gesture of love (a kiss) to betray him. The worst pain is caused by people close to us, people we trusted, people we have shown our real selves too. Peter who was so close to him denied him three times. There was no touch of kindness any more only abuse. He was utterly on his own and felt that maybe even more so in the crowd that had turned against him. When we feel lonely, lost, scared. Jesus knows what that feels like.

I hope that this strange time also may help us to feel his closeness. He is with us. God is with us. For me God is not somewhere far away sending his son, asking his son to sacrifice himself for God as an atonement for our sins. It is God himself that took human form and came to live among us. It is God himself who gave himself for us… out of love, out of an immense overwhelming sense of love. It is this God that is with us, lying on a ventilator, present in the lonely, the exhausted, the frightened. It is the God who is with the most vulnerable, the poor, the refugee and the God who is with the wounded earth.

People who has gone through immense hardships have come to that understanding. Elie Wiesel recounts in his book ‘When God was taken Captive’, an experience he had when he was as a fifteen year old and in a Nazi dead camp. He tells about being forced to watch the hanging of two men and a young boy, with an angelic face. The boy has an agonising long death. Eli Wiesel and his fellow prisoners are forced to look at this dying full in the face. A man behind him asks: “Where is God? Where is He?” Total silence throughout the camp. The man asks again: “Where is God now?” And Elie Wiesel heard a voice within him answer him: “Where is He? Here He is—He is hanging here on this gallows.”

Another person who lived during the Second World War was Etty Hillesum, a beautiful, intelligent young Jewish woman, who during the World War II refuses to go in hiding, but instead volunteers in a transit camp and later dies in Auschwitz.

 She writes:

“What matters is not whether we preserve our lives at any cost, but how we preserve them. There doesn’t seem to be much You Yourself can do about our circumstances, about our lives. Neither do I hold You responsible. You cannot help us, but we must help You and defend Your dwelling place inside us to the last.”

May our drawing close to this vulnerable God, in these challenging times, taking care of Him, give us strength.