Sunday, March 20, 2016

Lent 6: Palm / Passion Sunday

Philippians 2:5-11

2If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, 2make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 3Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. 4Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. 5Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, 6who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, 7but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, 8he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death— even death on a cross.

9Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, 10so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Four weeks ago on Lent 2 we talked about Philippians as the Epistle of Joy. Today is Palm/Passion Sunday! We're getting ready for Easter—last Sunday and today we're seriously getting into some theology of the cross. Theology of the Cross was at the heart of Martin Luther's theology, and if we read both the OT and NT carefully, we find it's at the heart of God's self-revelation.

Recapping last week:

• Theology of the cross is about God's own self-revelation, especially in Christ crucified. Theology of the cross is about God's often hidden, sacramental, paradoxical (try to define paradoxical?) presence in the commonest things, people, and situations. All of us have experiences of being able to look back onto a tough, hard, unpleasant situation and in retrospect recognize God was there all the time at that time.

• Theology of glory is about human ideas and imaginings of how a powerful, all-knowing, sovereign God might act. Maybe how humans wish God would behave?

Luther reminds us to see the fullness of God's power and sovereignty, look to the Bethlehem manger; look to the Calvary cross.

Martin Luther, "The God who became small for us in Christ" ... small enough to die.

Philippi was a Roman colony, so just like the apostle Paul himself, technically the people Paul wrote to were Roman citizens yet still colonials. They received a fair amount of freedom and privilege; they had a lot of civic and cultural pride; they were not financially impoverished, either. Anyone in that culture would have considered humility completely countercultural. Our essential baptismal identity in Christ is citizenship /membership without boundaries, borders, or barriers.

Almost forever people have imagined the Apostle Paul quoted a hymn from another source here, but Gordon Fee, professor emeritus at Regent College, Vancouver, Canada says:

If it was originally a hymn of some kind, it contains nothing at all of the nature of Greek hymnody or poetry. Therefore, it must be Semitic in origin. But the alleged Semitic parallelism of this piece is quite unlike any known example of Hebrew psalmody. It lacks the rhythm and parallelism one might expect of material that is to be sung. And in any case, it fits very poorly with the clearly hymnic material in the Psalter or in Luke 1:46-55, 68-79, or in 1 Timothy 3:16b, to name but a few clear NT examples of hymns.

In any case, it's probably not an original by Paul but probably had been circulating around town. It now has become an "early Christian song."

Though this passage does not use words like imitate, obey, type, or model, it still calls us to pattern our behaviors after Jesus' obedience. Pastor Peg pointed out "mind of Christ" is more than just brain: it's our whole way of being. The word most English translations render as "slave" also is slave (not servant) in Greek. Discussion of emotional impact of words; changes in historical meaning, too.

Kenosis: theology word for today—emptying something that's full, complete, etc.

Jesus freely and obediently chose the journey to passion, death, and resurrection that involved emptying himself of power and status (kenosis). He made the choice from a position of power. Pastor Peg mentioned what a hot-button word "slave" is in this country, and in the ethnically very diverse church she recently served as interim the concern was finding ways to fill (especially) the teenagers and young adults with enough self-worth you then could encourage them empty themselves in lives of service.

How do we measure our status? Social media popularity, hits, post likes! Does social media define us these days! Creating and crafting our own self image. Maybe we don't struggle much with civic or ethnic pride, maybe we don't even need much of a dose of humility, but how about other struggles?

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