The Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost; Proper 21A (September 28, 2014)
Lessons:Ezekiel 18:1-4, 25-32 Psalm 25:1-9 Philippians 2:1-13 St. Matthew 21:23-32
Semicontinuous Reading and Psalm: Exodus 17:1-7 Psalm 78:1-4, 12-16
Prayer of the Day: God of love, giver of life, you know our frailties and failings. Give us your grace to overcome them, keep us from those things that harm us, and guide us in the way of salvation, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.
2.1 If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, 2 make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. 5 Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,
6who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited,
7but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form,
8he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death— even death on a cross.
9Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name,
10so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
12 Therefore, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed me, not only in my presence, but much more now in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; 13 for it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure.
Philippians 2:1-13, New Revised Version Bible (C)1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.
The Same Mind
The Apostle Paul’s letter to the Philippians is a beautiful tribute to a faithful community for whom Paul had very high regard. The Philippians had been quite supportive of Paul, even to the extent of becoming financial supporters of his ministry, and he saw in them signs of a deep and lasting faith. This letter is intended, primarily, to support and encourage them.
The section of Philippians we read this week, however, has been a puzzle to many interpreters over the years. It is suspected by some that the middle portion of it, verses 6-11, may well be one of the first Christian hymns, quoted here by Paul. The entire passage has been turned over and over again by those who have tried to develop a theological / philosophical way to describe in words what Christ accomplished on the cross.
The intent by the Apostle is not that lofty, however. He is simply writing to a faithful group of Christians, and encouraging them to see in Christ a model for what it means to live in this world as a child of God. “Let the same mind be in you,” says Paul. The same mind as Christ who (1) “emptied himself,” (2) “humbled himself,” and (3) “became obedient to the point of death.” Paul teaches that in the selfless love of Christ one can catch a glimpse of what the life of Christian faith is all about. It has to do with turning away from the temptation to self absorbed living, and towards the world of need in which we live. It has to do with emptying ourselves and humbling ourselves, so that we can truly see the needs of others. It has to do with becoming obedient to the call to love neighbor as much as self.
Let the same mind be in you.
These were hard words of challenge to the Philippians, and they are hard words of challenge to us today. In a world where we are encouraged to “just do it” and “have it your way,” Paul calls us to empty ourselves, to humble ourselves, and to become obedient to Christ as we serve others. Let the same mind be in you. Indeed!
Yet true to form, this command comes with a promise. The promise is that the God who calls us to this life of humble service will empower us for the work we are called to do. In Paul’s words, “It is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” Not only to do the work, but also to will the work. Imagine that: our very desire to be faithful to this call comes as a gift from God.
And what is the response from Paul? Pure joy. “Make my joy complete,” he says. The faithful witness of those first century Philippians brought joy to the Apostle’s heart. Not just because they were responding to his word, but because they themselves, having the same mind of Christ, were serving as a living witness to the power of the Gospel.
Perhaps we do well to pray that God might accomplish the same among us.
David J. Risendal, Pastor
Exploring This Week’s Gospel:
- How do the Philippians compare to the Corinthians in Paul’s letters?
- What did Paul appreciate most about the Philippians?
- Why did he feel able to offer them this additional challenge in faithful living?
Connecting with This Week’s Gospel:
- How does this challenge from Paul contrast with the culture in which I live?
- When have I been emptied and humbled enough to notice the needs of a neighbor?
- How does it free me to know that even the will to do this comes as a gift from God?