“What is your passion?”

“What is your passion?”
Sunday 11 August 2019

As I reflected on today’s Gospel reading from Luke, one sentence seemed to jump out at me. “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also”. I think that the reason I was so struck by it was that as I read it over a few times, it seemed to me that it clearly could be interpreted in two ways.

Firstly, it could be read as something of a warning. Like – make sure that you have your treasure in the right place, or your heart (and for Jews of the time that the gospel was written, that would mean the will, not the affections) your heart will be in the wrong place too.
On the other hand, it could also be read as encouragement. Like – if your treasure is in the right place then you can be completely confident that your heart is as well.

As I continued to reflect upon the sentence, the word “treasure” then struck me as one that needed to be explored a little more. For me, the word “treasure” conjures up a wooden chest with gold and jewels and precious things flowing out of it. The sort of thing that you need a pirate map to find.

I considered what might be a current day concept that better suited the notion being portrayed here. I came up with the word “passion”. Don’t we here that a lot these days. I have a passion for growing roses. I have a passion for cooking Italian food. Thinking about the Olympic Games coming up next year, how often do we here athletes say I have a passion for my sport and so on?

When an athlete makes that sort of a statement what comes to our thoughts? Say the athlete is a swimmer. Well then, we imagine the athlete getting up early every morning since they were young children and churning out laps of the pool – staring at the black line on the bottom as they go up and down. We think about the extra strengthening exercises that they would have done outside the pool, the strict adherence to the correct diet, the disciplined approach to getting a good night’s sleep, the willingness to go through pain and other mental barriers, including injuries, to achieve their best results.

We believe an athlete like that when they say they have a passion for their sport. Their passion for their sport governs all other aspects of their lives. Every decision they make in their life is premised upon the fact that it will either enhance their performance, or at least that it will not diminish it.

In the Old Testament reading today, we find a man with a passion. Although, in his case, his passion is referred to as “faith” in the second reading from Hebrews which acts as something of a commentary on Abram or Abraham as he became. “By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to set out for a place that he was to receive as an inheritance; and he set out, not knowing where he was going”. Now that is passion.

We can only imagine the great trust in God that this wandering nomadic chieftain from 2000BC had. He had set out from somewhere in modern day Iraq and journeyed to the north to modern day Syria, before heading south to Canaan after a detour to Egypt. All at the behest of this God in whom he posited his faith, his trust. In the first reading today, he believes that God will keep the promise to make his descendants as many as the stars in the sky.

It is interesting that here again I think we can find the twin themes of warning and encouragement, just as I suggested were present in the Gospel.

Unless Abram trusts God, what he desires will not come about. On the other hand, if he does trust God, what he wants to come about is certain to happen.

On the one hand we should trust God – as something of a moral imperative. On the other hand, we can trust God – as something of an assurance given.

When we think about these two aspects, it is fair to say that they run through a lot of our understanding of our relationship with God. Consider the Confession which we made at the beginning of the Service. By way of introduction to the Confession, you were invited to consider the following:

‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one: you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ Jesus said: ‘This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: you shall love your neighbour as yourself.’

We are reminded that we have the obligation to love God and love our neighbour. If you like, this is the moral imperative side of things. But then we hear the words that speak of God’s promise – his love for us if you like.

Almighty God,
who has promised forgiveness to all who turn to him in faith:
pardon you and set you free from all your sins,
strengthen you in all goodness
and keep you in eternal life,
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

We can trust God to do his part. In fact, he does his part first. It is because I am loved, because God has promised me forgiveness if I turn to God, that I am able to actually do that.

In other words, what we are really talking about with these two aspects are grace and response. In so far as we respond faithfully to this gracious love of God, we are able to live our lives with a passion for God, just as an athlete might align all of her life’s decision to fit in with her passion for her sport.

And so, where your passion is, there will your heart be also. But remember, Jesus’ passion makes our passion for God possible.
Let’s pause for a few moments in silence and ask God to release the passion in us for his Son Jesus Christ whose passion makes us whole.

Archdeacon Allan Paulsen
Parish Priest

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