January 26, 2020
Passion for (fill in blank)
Rev. Sandra Larson
What activities enliven your enthusiasm or passion?
Passion is a strong feeling about a person or thing that ordinarily inspires bold action. The Urban dictionary says: Passion is when you are highly motivated and put more energy into something than is required to do it. It is more than just enthusiasm or excitement. Passion is a strong desire and ambition that is materialized into action to put as much heart, mind body and soul into something as is possible. We know from personal experience that matching our passion with the needs of the world is the essence and gusto of life.
What do you enjoy doing? Many of us have demanding responsibilities or limitations that we allow to reduce our acting upon our own desires or concerns. Some of us let health or depression eclipse our initiative to do what we love to do. OK—So we can’t do black runs on downhill ski slopes or triathlons. Yet, how can we participate in the things we love to do? I have discovered that many wife-moms and people moving into retirement have been so focused on the needs of their job that they forget what they love to do. How do we mobilize our interests and gifts? How can we mobilize our passion to serve and help others, even if our time or capacity is limited? If you draw a blank on identifying your passions, check out What Color is Your Parachute from the library for strategies to identify what you love to do.
What is your passion or favorite activities? I see people in this congregation who put their passions to use here in the church. We can easily identify several: a passion for singing or music, for extending a warm welcome to others or befriending children, and those who extend TLC for people facing difficulties; and Union is blessed with people who are gifted and enjoy food preparation, art, furniture or buildings repair, planning events, serving people who are food insecure, and some who like to do outdoor sprucing up or indoor straightening up or beautification. Even with limitations, there are many possibilities for matching your interests with needs in the church or wider community.
I know a devout, blind and wheelchair confined woman who prays regularly for at-risk youth. I know a homebound retired nurse who phones or sends thoughtful greeting cards to scores of people who appreciate her initiatives. Many people put their passion into practice despite obstacles standing in their way.
Acting on such interests and passions enriches our own life and makes the world a better place. What purveyors of their passion do you know of? Many who followed their passion are famous. Martin Luther King Jr’s passion for racial equality changed the world. Mother Theresa brought the touch of her love to countless people. Louis Pasteur and Thomas Edison changed the world because of their passion for finding answers.
Eleanor Roosevelt is a fascinating example of passion put into practice. Mrs. Roosevelt set aside her potential as a debutant. Instead, Eleanor used her empathy from her own tragic childhood to teach poor immigrant children, set up a school for children of unfit parents and to advocate tirelessly for human rights. Eleanor established a cottage industry for marginal farmers to learn woodworking to sell handcrafted furniture. She used her political influence to significantly shape the policies of three US presidents. Mrs. Roosevelt expended her own financial resources in her passion to help others and lived in a modest house where she was constantly helping others.
Many of Eleanor Roosevelt’s quotes are still repeated often, such as:
Do what you feel in your heart to be right – for you'll be criticized anyway.
You must do the thing you think you cannot do.
You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face.
Life must be lived and curiosity kept alive. One must never, for whatever reason, turn his back on life.
Who do you know who acts on their passions to help the world be a better place?
My friend, Paul Dupuis has boundless compassion that led him to serve the poorest of the poor in Haiti until leaders in Haiti expelled him from Haiti for fear of Paul empowering the poor. A Presbyterian friend delivered birthday cakes to anyone she knew would not otherwise get a cake—until, at age 84, she lost her mobility because of a fall on the ice that broke her hip when delivering a birthday cake in January.
Would anyone like to share briefly about someone you know who put their passion to helpful purpose…possibly acting upon their passion, even despite barriers or setbacks? Talk about your passion role models over soup in Fellowship Hall today.
Jesus is the consummate exemplar of passion and commitment. Think about what Jesus accomplished in the 36 months or so of his active ministry! Jesus had a driving passion to inspire people to accept God’s love for them and to help people recognize God’s love for others, despite their own prejudices. Jesus knew that his mission would antagonize religious and political leaders and would probably soon cost him his life. Yet he pursued his mission with zeal. He began by teaching and healing. Then similar to walking along Newburgh’s Broadway Street, Jesus stopped and called some guys to follow him. Jesus must have already deeply inspired the men he invited, because they followed him immediately and even urged others to join them. These fellows seemed to have no special qualifications except being drawn to Jesus by his wisdom and passion. As history can testify, a contagious passion empowered them.
Jesus’ itinerary makes politician’s grueling campaign trail schedules seem easy. Day after day, Jesus reached out to people in the countryside and in Jerusalem, the capital city and hub of the Jewish faith, and even reached out to regions of their reviled stepsister country of Samaria. Jesus must have been constantly on the move. His passion was to demonstrate God’s love for all he met. Crowds began to seek him out—hoping to hear him or for healing.
Some fell away. Judas had a prejudiced passion of wanting a military messiah that caused Judas to misunderstand and ultimately betray Jesus. The Passion of Christ is probably called the Passion because of Jesus’ passionate love that caused him to accept the horrific week of his capture, trumped up trial and death. His love for people was so passionate that he was willing to die to demonstrate the magnitude of God’s love. Many of Jesus’ followers pursued his passion, even after Jesus died.
The New Testament makes these noteworthy points about passion. The Apostle Paul’s Letter to his co-worker Titus talks of Christians’ transformation: We ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, despicable, hating one another. [3.3]
I Peter amplifies: You have already spent enough time in doing what the Gentiles like to do, living in licentiousness, passions, drunkenness, revels, carousing, and lawless idolatry. [4:3]
We probably do not often behave despicably. But we all get the point. The letter to the Colossians says: “Whatever your task, put yourselves into it, as done for the Lord.” [3.23] Chose intentionally and carefully which passions to act upon. Otherwise, your life might be very boring and dull.
What passions do we want to pursue?