The Mind of Christ
| Philippians 2:1-13
||Sun, September 26, 1999
Rev. Ed Searcy
|I had to laugh.
At the meeting of our Church Board on Thursday
we were speaking about the inevitable differences
that are a part of any lively, healthy church.
Differences in perspective.
Differences in viewpoint.
Differences in direction.
Some are naturally inclined to focus inwardly,
on our life in here.
Others find themselves impassioned
about our life beyond these walls.
Conservation of our inheritance is foremost in some minds.
Adaptation and innovation strikes others as of first priority.
So, as a Board,
we began wondering how best to provide leadership
in a congregation that must inevitably involve
the tensions that arise from our differences.
And then I opened the Bible to Philippians, chapter two.
Paul has a simple solution
for a church with its share of differences:
“Be of the same mind, having the same love,
being in full accord and of one mind.”
Having the same mind?
Being in full accord? Imagine.
And Paul does imagine it.
“Let the same mind”, he says,
“be in you that was in Christ Jesus”.
Perhaps some of you have run across the latest trend
in the world of Christian marketing:
You see it on metal bracelets,
on bumper stickers
and even on this pair of socks
so thoughtfully given to me by the Questors group!
‘What would Jesus do?’
A daily reminder to:
“Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus”.
Except that Paul does not write letters to individual
‘Dear Michelle’ or ‘Dear Robert’ or even ‘Dear Ed’.
Paul writes to the church and says to us as a community
“Let the same mind be in you”
The ‘you’ here is the plural ‘you’, not singular.
Paul would have us as a congregation live our life together
as if we were Jesus Christ.
‘WWJD’ is, says Paul,
the question that the Philippians
and the Uhillians
are to ask in all of their affairs.
And it is clear that Paul does not imagine for a moment
that simply ’minding one’s own business’
is ever the mind of Christ.
“Let each of you”, he writes,
look not to your own interests,
but to the interests of others.”
Because Jesus Christ did not and does not
mind his own business.
Instead, he had and has
a mind to give his life for others.
Look, writes Paul,
Christ Jesus “was in the form of God” ...
he had ultimate security.
If Christ had a mind to he could have exploited his power,
dictated how things would be.
But he did not.
Instead, Jesus “emptied himself “...
took “the form of a slave” ...
and “humbled himself” ...
to the “point of death on a cross”.
I sometimes get the feeling that when folks wear
their ‘Christian clothing’ with the ‘WWJD’ monogram
they have in mind something like the Golden Rule:
‘Do unto others as you would have them do unto you’
Tit for tat.
I’ll scratch your back, you scratch mine.
WWJD Christians are trying, I suspect,
to be courteous, polite, well-mannered, and generous.
But emptying themselves ... to the point of enslavement?
Humbling themselves ... to the point of death?
One wonders how far sales will drop
if those buying their WWJD paraphenalia
have Philippians 2 in mind
when they arrive at the cash register.
To be honest this is a dangerous text.
Dangerous because of the ways it can be misused.
A woman finally stirs up her courage
to approach the pastor about the abuse
that she has hidden from everyone for so long.
She wonders what is the ‘Christian’ thing to do ...
‘WWJD’ she asks.
She opens her Bible here,
pointing to this text as the reason
that she has stayed with him for so long ...
a text that she learned long ago meant that
the Christian thing to do was to just ‘take it’ ... to ‘suffer’ ...
to ‘carry your cross’
even if that cross is a partner
whose cycles of abuse becomes ever more predictable.
Besides, she goes on,
she is afraid of what will happen if she leaves.
Afraid for her own security.
Afraid for the children.
Afraid of what people will say and think.
At least she has learned how to cope with the present
with all of its pain.
Forced to see this passage through her eyes
the young pastor sees it again
as if for the first time.
“Do you think”, he wonders aloud,
“that the mind of Christ
is one that is prepared to let go of security ...
prepared to risk being humbled ...
prepared to die to life as it is now
in order that God might do something new?”
Together they begin to imagine
that the mind of Christ does not have a mind
to maintain the status quo
when the status quo
is a cycle of abuse at home
or a reign of terror abroad.
This is a dangerous text.
Perhaps you heard or read this week
that the Anglican Diocese of the Cariboo
is contemplating declaring bankruptcy
as the costs of court cases and legal damages
resulting from sexual abuses in one of its Residential Schools
mount ever higher.
In the not-too-distant future
the Anglican Church in the Cariboo
may be a church without any property ...
a church without churches.
It is a prospect that at the beginning of this century
After all, in the 1920s an act was passed in the BC Legislature
giving the Anglican and United Churches somewhat more
than the normal 99 year lease on this very site.
The act declared this to be a 999 year lease.
It would seem to many that it was a misplaced confidence.
To most in our society the Cariboo Diocese
appears to be on its death-bed.
But Jim Cruickshank, the Bishop of the Cariboo,
has something else in mind.
For a number of years now he has been preparing his Diocese
for the eventuality of bankruptcy.
He has emphasized that the Anglican congregations
sprinkled throughout the region
are not bastions of the institutional church
but little outposts of the kingdom of God.
Jim has refused to ordain priests
who are not prepared to work at a second job ...
who do not share the vision of a servant church
that has died to its former glory.
This is the essential truth that is portrayed on the cover of
this morning’s order of service.
It portrays Christ crucified
on a cross that is also a tree,
springing forth shoots of new life.
The Cross ... the Joshua Tree ... is our truth.
In fact, the word ‘tree’ and the word ‘truth’
share the same root ...
because both are rooted in reality,
The way of bearing one another’s suffering
is the way, the truth and the life.
This is the mind of Christ.
We want to believe it ...
we do believe it ...
and yet we find ourselves so easily disuaded
in a world which is determined to convince us that
the way of life is the ‘path of success’
and the truth of life is ‘making it big’
and life itself is ‘having it all’.
See how easily the servant Lord
becomes the ruling Lord.
In the middle ages it was not uncommon for
the prince or the priest or the father
to point to the heavens saying:
“As Christ is my Lord ... so I am your Lord”.
With such a tarnished past
one can easily understand the reticence of many
to ever say “Jesus is Lord” today.
It evokes powerful memories of using Jesus
as a means to dominate others.
But you see,
Christ has a mind to die for others.
The church does not point up when referring to this Lord ...
the church points down ...
down to where he washes our feet ...
saying “As Christ is our servant .. so we are yours”.
Edith Baird is the new minister at Knox United Church.
She and the Pastoral Relations Committee at Knox
tell of the moment in Edith’s interview last Spring
when she asked the committee:
“How you are the Body of Christ in this community.”
There was silence.
The committee members must have wished
that she had asked instead about something
that they could answer, like the salary package perhaps.
Instead, they called her to be their minister ...
and told this story as part of that call.
Edith is asking the people at Knox
the same thing that Paul is asking the people at Philippi
and we who are gathered here:
“Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus”
Not, mind you, that we agree on everything
or do not have our differences.
The body, after all, has many different members
and is still one body.
It is that we share a common identity ...
a common personality ...
and therefore develop a common attitude to one another
and form a common orientation to the world.
It is an attitude of mutual sacrifice ...
a shared understanding that being the church
does not have to do with belonging to a successful institution.
Being the church means being the Body of Christ.
Being the church means having the mind of Christ.
Being the church means dying for others with Christ.
Knowing this we can only be grateful
that Paul encourages us to
“work out your own salvation with fear and trembling”.
Fear and trembling is right!
Can it be that we could ever know the mind of Christ?
Paul is supremely confident that we will:
“For it is God who is at work in you,
enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure.”
This is our hope and our prayer.
That God is yet at work in us ...
in our embodying Christ
in our shared burdens
in our humble service ...
for God’s good pleasure.
May it be so.