HAVE THE MIND OF CHRIST

 

The text for this sermon is Philippians 2:1-13.  Pastor Jim Kniseley presented this sermon at Resurrection on September 28, 2008, the 20th Sunday after Pentecost.

 

Dear Friends in Christ,

 

We have confirmation students filling in sermon notes, so here are two important pieces of information: The text for this sermon is today’s second lesson, Philippians 2:1-13.  The title of this sermon is “Have the Mind of Christ.”

 

St. Paul wrote his letter to the Church at Philippi about the year 61 A.D.  We believe Paul was under house-arrest in the City of Rome.  His purpose in writing this letter included:  a report on his circumstances in Rome; an encouragement  to the Philippians to stand firm in the face of persecution and rejoice regardless of their circumstances; and  a call for   them to  live a life of humility and unity.

 

You’ll remember that Paul was arrested, taken to Rome, kept under house arrest for perhaps 2 years, had his trial, was found guilty by the Roman court, sentenced to death and was executed.  There were lots of opportunities along the way for Paul to have gotten himself off if he had just promised to give up his Christian missionary witness, but he refused as a matter of conscience.  He wanted his case to serve as a witness to Christ and an encouragement to Christians everywhere.

 

Now  we come today to this portion of his letter that calls upon all Christians to live a life of humility and unity.  Here again is what he wrote:

 

If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.  Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves.  Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus…

 

A mind of humility, a mind of service, a mind of sacrifice.  The Greek word that Paul uses for the attitude of emptying yourself of selfish attitudes is “kenosis.”  Kenosis is something you do in obedience to someone or something you believe in.  We Christians believe that Jesus calls us to a life of humility, service and sacrifice for others.

 

What do you do in anxious times?   Paul’s personal circumstances were precarious.  The Philippian Congregation was experiencing lots of unrest.  Paul had founded their congregation and set them on what he considered a good course.  Then other Christians came into town and said that Paul was teaching a gospel that was too easy.  They must adhere to all the laws of the Jews if they were to be good Christians.  People were posturing and taking sides.  So the future for the Philippian Church was clouded.

 

You and I know about anxious times.  The problems with the national and global economies are hitting us very personally.  Some of you here today are really feeling the effects, having lost your jobs, some having lost your homes through foreclosure, and just about all of us seeing a plummet in our retirement accounts and value of our homes.

 

Yes, we’re anxious.  Many of us bought into the thinking that our possessions are a sign of our worth.  Or to put it another way, that our future is wholly dependent on what we have accumulated and achieved in this life.  Many are thinking, the only way I will be happy again is when my 40l-K goes back up to what it was a couple of years ago, when the value of my house increases tremendously again.  And Paul says, in effect, “focus on Jesus to understand the true values in your life.”

 

Some of you may recognize The Lutheran Handbook.  There is a 2-page article entitled “How to Become a Theologian of the Cross (and Avoid Being a Theologian of Glory).” 

It was Martin Luther who coined the terms “Theology of the Cross” and “Theology of Glory.”  His thinking reflects the thoughts of St. Paul.  A person who believes in the theology of glory looks at the cross and sees it as a sign of personal gain.  Because I believe in Jesus, I will be healthy, wealthy, successful and popular.  In contrast, a person who believes in the theology of the cross thinks of the cross as the last stop for sin, death, and delusions of grandeur.  A person who believe in the theology  of glory thinks that God shows up where humans expect God to show up: in things that are powerful, wise, and important by human standards.  On the other hand, a person who believes in the theology of the cross knows that God is much more subtle: God shows up in those things that seem weak, foolish, and insignificant to human eyes. 

 

I like the warning that is written several times around the edge of this article: Warning: It may take multiple readings – and time – to understand this concept.  The article concludes:  Accept the lifelong nature of becoming a theologian of the cross..As you experience life’s up and downs, being a theologian of the cross is something you just live into when you are open and trust God’s promises.

 

 

Have you heard the term “enabler”?  It usually has a negative connotation, signifying someone whose actions or inactions help a person to be an alcoholic or drug user or addicted to some behavior.  Paul uses it today in a very positive way. It is helpful for those of us who aren’t clear about whether we can turn from our old ways or thinking and live in such a way that is focused on God’s Kingdom:  “For it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and work for his good pleasure.”  (vs. 13)

 

Let’s conclude this sermon today reciting together the words of the Humility Hymn that Paul gives us in today’s second lesson (Philippians 2:5-11):

 

Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,

            who, though he was in the form of God,

            did not regard equality with God

            as something to be exploited,

but  emptied himself,

            taking the form of a slave,

            being born in human likeness,

            and being found in human form,

he humbled himself

            and become obedient to the point of death –

            even death on a cross.

therefore God also highly exalted him

            and gave him the name

            that is above every name,

so that at the name of Jesus

            every knee should bend,

            in heaven and on earth and under the earth,

and every tongue should confess

            that Jesus Christ is Lord,

            to the glory of God the Father.

 

Amen!