Saturday, April 04, 2020

Lent 6A

Philippians 2:5-11

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. NRSV

5-8Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself. He had equal status with God but didn’t think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. Not at all. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn’t claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death—and the worst kind of death at that—a crucifixion.

9-11Because of that obedience, God lifted him high and honored him far beyond anyone or anything, ever, so that all created beings in heaven and on earth—even those long ago dead and buried—will bow in worship before this Jesus Christ, and call out in praise that he is the Master of all, to the glorious honor of God the Father. MSG

COVID-19 Lockdown

With #SaferAtHome #StaySafeStayHome effective at least through April, I'll keep blogging and emailing my SS class notes to people who previously requested them (and easily can add to my mailing list).


cf: Psalm 31:9-16 – Matthew 21:1-17 – Matthew 27:11-26

God of Good Friday, God of Easter Sunday
You've been with us during this surprising Lent
Today we join the excited Palm Sunday crowd
Will we join the crowd demanding crucify?
Will we be silent?

Our intentions and our actions have taken us all of those places
We have been sometimes faithful
      Sometimes not
We have celebrated Jesus our Savior
      And denied Jesus any place

God of Good Friday, God of Easter Sunday
You have been gracious to us
Let us be gracious to you!
Awaken our ears to the cries of this planet
These times are in your hands
Your earth is in your hands

Lover of creation in Christ Jesus
Save us in your steadfast love
Bring us to the surprise of Resurrection
      with new spirits, new hearts
      and the hope of a new earth!

In the name of the One crucified and risen for the life of the world,
Jesus Christ, our Redeemer and Lord,


The season of Lent that leads us to Easter has been different lengths at different times. Churches that follow the lectionary for their scripture readings generally observe Lent during the 40 days – excluding Sundays – from Ash Wednesday through Wednesday in Holy Week.

Triduum / Three Days

The Service(s) of Maundy Thursday – Good Friday – Easter form a single liturgy. One of my favorite activities is creating a resurrection trilogy by attending Saturday evening Easter Vigil, Sunday Sunrise, and mid-to-later morning Sunday services. This year no one will be able to do that.

Palm-Passion Sunday

On the last Sunday in but not of Lent, many churches start worship by reenacting Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem (with palms or locally grown green branches), and continue to his arraignment, trial, conviction, crucifixion, and death. The gospels of Mark and Matthew tell us when Jesus died the temple curtain tore from from top to bottom, symbolizing the reality of the reconciliation of heaven and earth. The word for tore is one that can't be mended; in Matthew, the earth shook, rocks split open. All creation responded!

Philippi and Philippians

Philippi was a long-time Roman colony, so like the apostle Paul himself, the people Paul addressed in this letter were Roman citizens, yet still colonials. They received a lot of freedom and privilege in return for loyalty to the empire; with their immense cultural pride and financial affluence, they would have considered humility degrading.

First Church Philippi may have serendipitously started the way Acts 16 tells the story:

Paul and his ministry sidekick Timothy went to Philippi in Macedonia, then down to the river on the sabbath hoping to find an ad hoc synagogue, because if there was no local synagogue, Jews would gather at the river to form a minyan or at least to pray together. They found Purveyor of Purple Cloth Lydia by the riverbank, and eventually baptized Lydia and her entire family. Anti-imperial heavenly citizenship begins with baptism; the HS of God creates the church out of the assembly of the baptized! So Paul was founding pastor and probably a kind of mission developer. Philippi was the first church on European soil.

Paul wrote this captivity (imprisonment) letter either from Ephesus around 52-56, or more probably from Rome around 61-62. Captivity letter? Philippians has been called the Epistle of Joy and reveals Paul captured by and captive to Jesus Christ.

Empire / Baptism

In Philippians 1:27 Paul tells the Philippian Christians to live out their baptism via their public, political lives "in a manner worthy of the gospel" as witnesses to Jesus' death and resurrection—not to Rome's or any other entity's life-negating death-dealing imperialism. Paul reminds them wherever they are, their real citizenship is in the earthbound reality of God's reign of heaven on this planet. Anti-imperial heavenly citizenship begins with baptism!

gods and God

In the Ancient Near East (ANE), gods were an ordinary part of daily life. Every city, town, and village, (almost every random mound of dirt) had its own deity. People imagined those gods demanded tribute in the form of money, food, shrines, sacrifices—human or animal ones at worst. People pictured gods being full of vanity and pretension. Aside from deities of place and function, you might find yourself interacting with a half-mortal, half-divine being who was offspring of a human and of a god. In Jesus Christ, we have a savior, a redeemer who is fully human and completely divine. Nothing halfway about him!

In The Message translation of this passage from Philippians, Pastor Eugene Peterson says Jesus "set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! Having become human, he stayed human." Those divine privileges would have been ones the fake gods people invented would claim. They were not attitudes or actions the God of the bible ever would have assumed. In other words, being in the image of the real God of Earth and Heaven, Jesus took on the real attributes of that God including love, mercy, service, grace, and forgiveness. In addition, being a real human and like us, inevitably subject to death, Jesus died.

In contrast to human ideas about divinity, the God of the bible especially self-reveals in the cross, in Jesus of Nazareth's crucifixion—and resurrection.

Theology of the Cross

• Theology of the cross is about God's own self-revelation, especially in Christ crucified. Theology of the cross is about God's frequently hidden, paradoxical both/and presence in the commonest things, people, and situations.

• Theology of glory is about human ideas and imaginings of how a powerful, all-knowing, sovereign God might act. Taking this further, theology of glory sometimes is about the ways humans wish God would behave? Varieties and variations of the prosperity gospel are theologies of glory.

• Martin 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.

Philippians 2:5-11

Almost forever scholars have imagined Paul quoted a hymn from another source, but Gordon Fee, professor emeritus at Regent College, Vancouver 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 ... 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 not an original by Paul but probably had been circulating around Christian circles. It now has become an "early Christian song."

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