Below is the manuscript for my sermon on April 9, 2017. It is based off of Philippians 2:5-11.
In Philippians chapter 2 Paul issues a reminder. The letter to the Philippians was written to a church which was in conflict. People weren’t getting along, and different factions were looking to come out on top over the other. I’m sure that doesn’t sound familiar at all. Paul, interestingly enough, didn’t take sides. Instead, he gave the different parties (all of whom were trying to follow Christ faithfully) a reminder of the path on which they’d been called to walk. That path is the mind of Christ.
When we live with the mind of of Christ we become transformed. Not only internally, but also in our inter-personal relationships. And there is a big reason for this. You see Christ’s “mind” is actually a way of life which gives up glory. As Philippians 2:6 point out,
“He did not consider equality with God as something to be grasped.”
Even though the pre-incarnate Son was in very nature God, and existed in a state of eternal glory and joy, the Son chose to empty himself rather to grasp on to his exalted position. In place of his exalted glory, he took on our humanity — and subjected himself to the full human experience — our joys, sorrows, trials, temptations, and struggles (both positive and negative).
Why would Christ do this? For one reason, his is a mind which lives to serve. Jesus’ obedience to his Heavenly Father was done in service to us. Jesus even says this during his earthly ministry in Matthew 20:28,
“The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
And this is what Paul highlights. Not only did Jesus become an obedient servant, he became an obedient servant to the point of death — even a death as horrific as a cross.
We are called to be this type of servant for one another. People who are willing to both empty ourselves of any notion we have of our own exalted state and who are willing to give ourselves up in order to see the other blessed. When we want nothing more than to serve, the church works.
As important as Jesus’ mind is for us, who claim to be his disciples, I believe this image of self-emptying and sacrifice is what the world needs to see.
Our world is grasping for power — Chemical Weapons have been deployed in Syria (in response our country launches missiles), hateful fanaticism is stoked up through Isis, North Korea is on the verge of developing a ballistic missile which can reach the United States, and White Supremacists here at home seem to feel like American politics has suddenly validated their demonic hatred of “the other.” This morning I read of two churches in Egypt which have been the target of terrorist attacks during Palm Sunday worship, killing 27 people. The nations of this world, and it denizens, want glory — and they’ll grasp out mercilessly not only to seize it for themselves, they’ll also make sure no one else is able to obtain it. After all, what could be more important than “winning?”
And in the way of violence and hatred and jealously and envy and pride stands an instrument of torture — the cross upon which our savior bled and died. And its weakness, expressed in this world though the “mind of Christ,” declares with blunt compassion, “This is the only way to glory — all your striving leads only to misery.”
This is why “mind of Christ” is so important. Without this “mind,” after all, there is no Holy Week. Christ came to Jerusalem not to be served but to serve. To be betrayed, abandoned, condemned, and offer forgiveness even he died. This is what it took to see the powers of sin and death vanquished – service, not domination. As we walk with Jesus on his journey to the Cross we experience again the “mind of Christ”. And recognize anew where it leads.
And, even though there is a cross before us, in the end God is the one who validates the service done by those who have “the mind of Christ.” See, we don’t serve now simply to get a reward later, that’s called employment. We serve because of the joy we have in humbling ourselves, and the love which wells up for others from the depths of our being by the power of Holy Spirit. But in the end, God does say, “Yes, that is what I want from my image-bearers.” And, again, Jesus is our example.
Jesus didn’t go through everything he went through in order to be given a Kingdom. As the eternal Son of God, by rights all Creation is his. He suffered and died because he wanted to free us from sin and death. His subsequent resurrection and exaltation was the exclamation point on all he’d done. Because Jesus emptied himself and because he went to the cross for others, every knee will bow before him and every tongue will confess, “Jesus Christ is Lord.” To the glory of God the Father.
May we live in service never even hoping to receive glory for ourselves, but be always pointing toward the one to whom all glory is due — and to the Lamb of God who is seated on the throne. Amen.