Saturday, April 12, 2014

Are You in Your Right Mind?

RCL Palm Sunday
13 April 2014

Saint Faith's Anglican Church
Vancouver BC

Focus text:  Philippians 2.5-11

Click here to listen to the Sermon as preached at the 10.00 a.m. Eucharist on Sunday the 13th.

At the heart of our reading from Philippians is a phrase that appears nowhere else in the scriptures:  "Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness." (Philippians 2.5-6)  There are many ways to interpret this unique phrase.

One way is to focus on the church's confession of the divinity of Christ.  Christ, the Word, being divine, humbly agrees to set aside divinity in order to become fully human.  Christ foregoes all the prerogatives that come with his divine nature and takes on all the ills and weaknesses that humanity is prone to suffer.

Another way to read the text is to see how the story of Christ and the story of Adam differ.  This is an image that Paul uses elsewhere in his writings.  Adam grasps after equality with God, but Christ refuses to do so.  Adam's efforts lead to humanity's separation from God, while Christ's actions leads to our reconciliation with God.

Let me suggest one more way to understand this passage:  Christ makes room, gives way, yields, in order to achieve God's purposes for us and for all creation.  God in Christ.  Some scholars have used this image to describe creation:  God gives way and makes room for us, provides space for us to be and to become.

To have the mind of Christ is to have the mind of God.  To have this mind, this way of being, this way of looking at the world, is what you and I, indeed all humanity, are called to share.  We are called to give way and to make room for every human being, every creature even, to be and, more importantly, to become.

To make way for others involves some cost.  We can no longer do business as usual if we are seeking to give others the space they require to become more fully human, more fully the persons whom God intends them to become.  We have to be willing to yield our privileges and advantages in order to give way.  Just as God took the risk of creating human beings in the divine image, hoping that we would make use of our God-given gifts to do justice, to love faithfully and to be co-workers with God, so too are we invited by God to do the same for our sisters and brothers, whether of our faith or not.

Yielding, making way for others, setting aside our privileges is not always valued in North American society.  We tend to see ourselves as self-made individuals and to expect others to follow a similar course of self-creation.  We live in a culture where fear is often used as a motivator and the emphasis is on holding on to what we have.

In some ways we, as a culture, continue to respond to God in the same way that Cain did after the murder of Abel:  "Am I my brother's keeper?" (Genesis 4.9)  What are our obligations to those who are in any need or trouble?  What are our obligations to those who live in troubled places and under various expressions of oppression?

Recently the CBC reported on the government's requirement that refugees who have arrived in Canada repay, with interest, the costs incurred by the government in bringing them to this country.  The 'Talk Back' responses to this practice revealed the conflicting attitudes of Canadians to this requirement.  Some felt that it was unjust, other a reasonable expectation.  As a citizen I understand the challenges of the government to be a reasonable steward of tax revenues; as a Christian I ask the question, "Are we making room?  Are we yielding our prerogatives in order to give people the opportunity to become more fully alive, more fully human?"

As we began our annual journey with Jesus towards the cross and resurrection, we are asked whether we are willing to bear the cost of making room, giving way for others in order that they might grow into the stature of Christ.  Paul asks this question in the words that introduce today's reading:  "If there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, make my joy complete:  be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.  Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves.  Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others." (Philippians 2.1-4)

My friends, in Christ God makes room for us to become fully alive, showing the way toward wholeness.  But God does not conceal from us the cost of such a journey.  When we give way for others, we have to be willing to give away our some of our possessions, whether material or immaterial.  We have to take on a new perspective, a new mind, that is ours to receive, if we have hearts to accept it.  May God make this so, for us and for all God's children, so that we may be free to become who we are truly called to be --- the beloved of God's Beloved, the sparks of the Divine Fire that warms the universe.  Amen. 

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