Saturday, September 24, 2011

Pentecost 15 - Proper 21

Proper 21 (25 Sept—1 Oct)
Almighty God, You exalted Your Son to the place of all honor and authority. Enlighten our minds by Your Holy Spirit that, confessing Jesus as Lord, we may be led into all truth; through the same Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

Questioning God – Do all things without grumbling or questioning - Philippians 2:1-4, 14-18

Paul, in appealing for unity, presents Jesus as the model of humanity and obedience. Paul pleads for unity in the congregation at Philippi. He uses Jesus as an example of humility. In this pericope, Paul shows the dual reality of the humanity and divinity of Jesus. His deity is indicated by the words, “in the form of God” and “equality with God.” His humanity is expressed in the phrases, “emptied himself,” “the likeness of men,” “in human form,” “obedient unto death.” This humility and obedience led to Christ’s exaltation. It is God’s will that every tongue confess him as Lord. In the light of this, Christians are to work out their salvation as God works in them.

It is quite self-evident that almost every church needs to be united in harmony and peace. An exceptional church does not have cliques and power structures competing with each other. The average pastor is constantly walking on eggs in trying to keep all parties happy and cooperative. Even Paul had the problem of a split church in Philippi. What can be done to have a united church? Paul writes the prescription. To have a united church -

1. Have the same mind — v. 2. Make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. Twice Paul uses the word in this verse to express the need for unity in the congregation. Like all congregations, there can be divisions among the members, cliques, and a party spirit. One of the dreads of the ministry is a divided or split congregation. What is the solution? It is for the members to have one mind and one spirit. They are to think alike and feel alike. What shall that one mind and one spirit be? It is the mind and spirit of Christ. Thus, the closer church members live to Christ, the closer they will be to each other in harmony and unity.

2. Have the same love — v. 2….having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. Paul finds life on earth in Christ and anticipation of death as gain. Know the difference between an optimist and a pessimist? The optimist believes we’re living in the best of all possible worlds! The pessimist is afraid that he is right! Is this as good as life gets? According to Paul, life gets even better!

We live our lives in this world to serve the needs of people. This is how we serve Christ on this earth. When our work on earth is done, we gain even a greater relationship with Christ. In Christ, we are winners in this life and in the life, which is to come.

3. Have the same humility — vv. 3-5. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus… What is the solution to lack of church unity? Paul urges his people to have the mind of Christ. His mind was one of humility demonstrated in his taking the form of a servant and dying on a cross. Humility is expressed by considering others better than yourself and being concerned more about others than yourself. Arrogance and pride divide and cause trouble while humility draws together into a unity.

Have this attitude among yourselves, which was in Christ. Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death— even death on a cross!

4. Have Christ at the center – Paul’s letter is peppered with joy. It is amazing because Paul wrote this letter when he was in jail for preaching the Gospel. How can one be so happy under such extreme circumstances? Your happiness does not depend on external circumstances or possessions. Joy is a matter of one’s spirit and attitude. Paul was happy because he had the privilege of suffering for the gospel, and because he had Christ.

Vv. 6-111 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow ,in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

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