16th Sunday after Pentecost

September 28, 2014

Summary

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

How to have mind of Christ? This is one of most complicated questions in the Christian life. Today we will reflect about some possible answers.

Letter to Philippians is letter of consolation and exhortation, written for divided community. Divided community is often lead by people with divided minds. They are stubborn enough not to change their minds. It is easy to blame such people but is not easy to change them. We know that because often we are such people aren’t we? How to change our mind in order to have mind of Christ? To be like son from parable we heard in today’s reading in the Gospel of Mathew?

Apostle Paul was in prison and he was writing to Christians in Philippi. He is using the text one of the oldest Christian hymns, so called hymn on humiliation of Christ. This is text what we heard today. Interestingly enough we have heard this hymn from Philippians third time in this liturgical year. (During the Christmas and Holy Week readings in the Church) It means that message of Philippians, chapter two is extremely important so it must be repeated many times. This hymn was the one of the first creed of early Church (before Apostolic or Nicene Creed were invented)

This hymn can help us to decipher not only life of Jesus but it can help us to describe who are we in Christ and how to live authentic Christian life. Everything is starting with changing of mind. It means changing of our mindset for the sake of radical changing of our lifestyle. It is metamorphosis or better to say Christomorphosis, forming and transforming of our mind in Christ. “Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus.” it is totally new way of perceiving ourselves in relationship with Christ. What does it mean to change our mind as Paul said in other places not only in today’s text?

It means first of all to employ one’s faculty of thoughtful planning, to have certain disposition, think something very particular, practical and yet very universal, objective. Paul tried to convince his readers to hold opinion with respond to Christ, to give careful consideration, to develop attitude based on careful thought. It is about conforming yourself into Christ. It is about imitation of Christ through participation in Christ. It is about gift and example. First we receive gift then we imitate Giver.

Paul is giving us certain gifts with explanation how to understand them and apply to our selves. It is indirectly about accepting new perception with new sets of habits, virtues for the sake of forming a new character. New perception, new habits and new virtues are alternative values of Kingdom of God necessary for our participation in Kingdom. This is aim of consolation and exhortation letter, to offer instruction in form of diagnosis, therapy and medicine. Directly speaking Paul is giving us explanation and instruction (gift and imitation) how to understand Christ event, Jesus’ life, death, resurrection, ascension and his heavenly dominion with God and Holy Spirit. Sound little bit complicated but it is not. Let us repeat what Paul said about Jesus.

 He was in form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited.

 He emptied himself taking form of slave being born in human likeness

 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

 Every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God Father

This is story of his life, like some kind of code, idiom or blueprint, role model for us. He who has divine nature deprives himself of divine power. He took unimportant position making himself powerless like slave. First thirty years of life he spends in secrecy leading totally normal and ordinary life, nothing very spectacular. He was not celebrity in his village. How can you be celebrity in village? (He would not be candidate for reality show if there was one in his time)

He was carpenter and helper in his father family business. He did not have his own business. He denied himself in uttermost humility because his life was framed by power of divine love and secrecy. Even in his so called triumphal entrance into Jerusalem as King of Kings he was riding borrowed donkey. Can you imagine “king of kings” and supposedly “messianic liberator” of Jewish nation entering in his future capitol on donkey? He is riding not on horse or on camel but on donkey which is metaphor for humbleness and deprivation. This is street theatre not kingly procession.

Can you imagine scene, Son of God and King of Kings, entering in Jerusalem his capital on donkey? It is almost like Golden Jubilee of Queen when celebration is on the way and all of sudden

Queen is coming on scooter or bicycle. It will be so unusual for people to see that. Son of God entering into Jerusalem without imperial insignia, body guards, army or weapons. There is something very humble in this picture isn’t it? It is not surprise that disciples didn’t understand what going on.

Jesus voluntarily deprived and humbled himself of any earthly concept of power. That was the reason why Paul said that he was like slave. This deprivation and obedience to God took him to cross. This is so humiliating, not just for him but for his disciples as well. “… but when Jesus was glorified then they remembered …” Scripture said.

However God did glorified Jesus and Paul called that act exaltation? An act of exaltation literally means to put someone in most important position of power and honour. Exaltation of Jesus is fulfilled in his resurrection, ascension, enthronement and royal dominion. It is climax of his earthly abasement and presupposition of his coming glory. He received special name that indicate highest position in cosmic order. Bearer of that name received name as divine command since he is carefully chosen by God. His name is guaranteed by his title. His character is visible sign of his privileged position with God. His title truthfully represents his reputation not like titles and reputation of Sir Mick Jagger or Sir Keith Richards for example.

For people in Greco-Roman culture name and title was always linked with status of the person. Jesus’ name is Lord Kyrios and this is his divine status as well. (John 15.21 knowledge about God’s name is knowledge of God himself) This is privileged position, reputation and description of his work. This is who he is. This name Jesus Christ and his title Lord represents divinity essence and that is reason why his name more important than the names of angels. To believe in the name of someone means foremost confidence that person’s name (and his status) is rightfully represents what and who the person really is.

To know all this we need to have mind of Christ so that we can live Christ like life. Let us repeat once again what Paul said about Christ.

He was in form of God

He emptied himself

He humbled himself and become obedient

God highly exalted him

Every tongue should confess him

That is explanation how grace works. Sometimes we think that grace of Christ makes us passive and if try to do something that God will take that against us. Just opposite. When grace of Christ come to us it help us to make us empty first, it make us humble and prepare us for exaltation.

This requires time and practice as Paul said in beginning of second chapter. Grace is coming as encouragement so that we can do something according to knowledge given to us in Christ. This is beginning of changing our mindset in order to think like Christ. Paul is giving us explanation in form of medicine. Our emptiness can be fulfilled with comforting love, sharing of Spirit and affectionate sympathy says Paul.

It means that we can avoid rivalry, conceit and watching our own interests. Rivalry and conceit are connected with seeing ourselves in the distorted way. We see ourselves sometimes better than we really are. We try to make impression that we are important since we are try to hide our insecurities. We are sincerely committed to protect our reputation with all means and that is reason why humility is difficult.

Paul is talking about something totally different here. To have mind of Christ means first be ready to accept emptiness of Christ, then his humbleness and obedience then his exaltation. Instead to be guided by love for power we should be guided by power of love of Jesus. Love of power or power of love? (We can humiliate self in Christ or we can humiliate others, there is no third option here)

To develop mind of Christ starts when we see our brothers and sisters in Christ better than ourselves, we count others more significant than ourselves. This means what Paul described as looking out for other people’s interests. Put interests of others before our own interests. This is almost imposable if we don’t live according to God’s word. Then we will ask what is not only good for me but what is good for whole group, family, church, community. It is about bigger picture at the end.

Gradually we will learn important lesson that our problems are not the biggest problems on earth. We will learn that the way we see problem is biggest part of problem. And that is reason why we sometimes cause problems for people around us. We can say in percentages, when we have problems usually:

40 percent goes on expectation of what other people will do (or what they should do)

20 percent goes on blaming of other people

12 percent goes on superficial self accusation

20 percent goes on what will happen to me in future

And only 8 percent goes on real problem!

To avoid such misconceptions we should develop mind of Christ according to the Word of God. It means that we should allow Holy Spirit to shape our mindset in such way that we perceive ourselves from below, so to speak. To renew our mind of Christ means to be ready to receive humility of Christ “humbly”. (You can receive his humility in proud way when your pride leads you to fall through pain and suffering. In that case you will be simply humbled by God even if you did not ask for that.)

When we receive humility of Christ “humbly” then we will be able to perceive things differently. Eventually everything depends about our ability to change our perspective in order to see things how Jesus sees things. To talk, think and act like Jesus. When we see things as Jesus sees things then our action will be easier to take. We will move from “why” questions to “how” questions, simple because we will have mind of Christ. Let me repeat once again. We will move from “why” questions to “how” questions. This is sign that we are receiving mind of Christ.

And then we will understand why Jesus entered in Jerusalem at donkey, why he allowed people to publicly humiliate him from one group to another and why he allowed himself to be crucified at Golgotha in between two gangsters. Only when we have mind of Christ we can understand what happen on Resurrection morning and what is going to happen when he return one day, until than there is so many things to change in our lives and everything starts with renewing our minds in order to have mind of Christ. Amen

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Bible References

  • Philippians 2
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