Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost (October 1, 2017)
- First reading and Psalm
- Alternate First reading and Psalm
- Second reading
Philippians 2:1-13 | New Living Translation (NLT)
Is there any encouragement from belonging to Christ? Any comfort from his love? Any fellowship together in the Spirit? Are your hearts tender and compassionate? Then make me truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one mind and purpose.
Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.
You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.
Though he was God,
he did not think of equality with God
as something to cling to.
Instead, he gave up his divine privileges;
he took the humble position of a slave
and was born as a human being.
When he appeared in human form,
he humbled himself in obedience to God
and died a criminal’s death on a cross.
Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor
and gave him the name above all other names,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue declare that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.
Dear friends, you always followed my instructions when I was with you. And now that I am away, it is even more important. Work hard to show the results of your salvation, obeying God with deep reverence and fear.For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him.
This past summer, this passage was given new meaning as I took a seminar at Refresh (which is the Western New York Family Camp.) This is an interesting passage. One that I have looked at many times before, but each time I see it in a slightly different way. Interestingly enough, we used this passage tonight at our worship celebration at Emmaus Road. Pastor Terri talked about unity…which comes from humility. This passage tells us about Christ’s humility and Paul is encouraging his readers to have the same characteristics as Jesus had. Look at the first few verses – look what Paul is asking the church. Since the church belongs to Christ…since there is comfort from his love…since we have fellowship in the Spirit…since our hearts are tender and compassionate…we should be unified, loving one another, working together with one mind and purpose. This looks like a list that we also saw in Romans – Don’t be selfish, don’t try to impress others, be humble, look out for the interests of others above your own.
Paul is reminding his readers that these are the characteristics of Christ and then goes on to quote one of the two oldest hymns of the church (the other one found in Colossians 1:15-20. This is a hymn of Christ’s humbleness and God’s exaltation of Christ. The word we would use for that is Kenosis – Christ emptied himself and God exalted him. Jesus who was God, emptied himself – gave up his divine privileges and came to earth to save us. We talk about this at Christmas when we talk of the incarnation – that is, Jesus coming to us in human form – fully God, fully man and yet Christ was completely helpless, having to be fed by Mary. He was obedient to God. We are called to be obedient to God. Christ relied on the Holy Spirit and we are to rely on the Holy Spirit as well. Christ – fully God – fully man died on the cross to save us from our sins. Then God raised him up on the third day and then 40 days later Christ was elevated to the place of highest honor – the right hand of God the Father. And as this early Christ hymn finishes…there is coming a day when every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord.
For now, Christ calls those who take his name to follow his example – have the same characteristics and have the same attitude as Jesus himself.