The 17th Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 21 [a] September 27, 2020
1 So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, 2 complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in Heaven and on earth and under the Earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. 12 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. 14 Do all things without grumbling or disputing, 15 that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, 16 holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain. 17 Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all. 18 Likewise you also should be glad and rejoice with me.
In the Name of Jesus.
Are we tired of it? The division, the calling of names, the squabbling, the gossip and slander? Are we tired of the injustices, the rioting and looting, the yelling, the turning of neighbor against neighbor?
Does it seem like everything around us is unraveling?
But it is not to be so in the Church.
The division, the malicious talk in our world, what do we do with it all?
A hundred years ago, W. B. Yeats wrote his poem about society unraveling. This is after WWI. The blood of the battlefield was still current, families were still mourning the dead, and the Spanish flu was hitting. Major cities required masks to be worn—we can even now go online and see pictures of masks in cities such as Paris and London and Los Angeles, and others.
It was 1919. Yeats wrote his great poem The Second Coming, painting a picture of a world swamped in anarchy. Yeats used the image of a falcon flying in a widening circle, circling ever higher and further away from its master, until the falcon is no longer to return to the center.
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
That’s just the first part of his poem.
Yeats could’ve been writing of our world today. Things falling apart, the center not holding, innocence drowned, the best people lack conviction, the worst are filled with passionate intensity.
But it is not to be so in the Church.
If the mind of this world is divided and filled with malice,
if the mind of this world is to intimidate neighbor,
if the mind of this world is to argue with fellowman in order to humiliate,
if the mind of this world is to build up yourself and prove the other wrong,
it is not to be so in the Church.
In the Church, our Lord replaces retribution with mercy, malice with kindness, intimidation with humility, the exercise of power with the giving of gifts; those divided he makes one.
In the Church, the word we are given to hear is not a word to cover another in shame, but to build-up and encourage.
So the Apostle Paul writes to the Church,
If there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being 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 count others more significant than yourselves.
Paul speaks to us of “being of one mind.” What is this “one mind” with one another we are given in the Church?
It’s so different from the conversation of our world, so opposite the picture Yeats painted in his poem by speaking of a Falcon flying ever further out of control so that he can’t even return to center, when he wrote of crowds acting out of passionate intensity; this “one mind” we are given in the Church, it’s foreign to the conversation we see around us of everyone lining up on sides and trying to bring shame on the neighbor.
What is this “one mind” with one another we are given in the Church? It is, says Paul, the mind which is yours in Christ Jesus. Philippians 2:5:
Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,
who, though he was in the form of God,
did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped,
but emptied himself,
by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.
And being found in human form,
he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death,
even death on a cross.
The mind among us which is yours in Christ Jesus—it is the proclamation of Jesus Christ crucified for all sinners.
It is the word of One who did not glorify himself, did not intimidate, but, though he was true God, became fully man, along with us, so that as man, he could then humble himself by taking our sins upon himself and going to the cross … to die as the sinner standing in our place.
The mind among us which is ours in Christ Jesus—it is the unity we are given by the Name placed on us in Baptism, the Name of the Father who is our Creator, the Son who redeemed us with his own blood, and the Holy Spirit who daily sanctifies us with the Word and Sacraments which forgive our sins.
The mind among us which is ours in Christ Jesus—it is the oneness we are given as we are bound to each other in the oneness of our Lord’s Table. For we who eat the Body of Christ according to his Words are made one body with him and with one other; we who drink his blood as he bids us to do for the forgiveness of all sin are made to be of one blood with him and thereby with one another.
The mind we are given to have among us? It’s alien to the mind of the world.
It’s never the will to intimidate or bring shame to neighbor, never the desire to harm our neighbor’s reputation, to accuse our neighbor of having motivations that we can’t know anyway; it’s never the will to tear down our neighbor’s property or wealth or business or home or cause fear—that mind belongs to our world. And that mind, the mind of division and superiority, of wanting to intimidate or bring shame, of setting neighbor against neighbor, that is the mind the devil tries to bring even into the Church, even among us.
And our own sinful flesh is open to this. For what better way to justify self—which is exactly what the sinful flesh wants to do—than to act morally superior to bring shame on the neighbor?
This mind of the world, it is not to be known in the Church.
Have this mind among yourselves, says Paul, the mind which is yours in Christ Jesus, the mind of him who though he was true God, emptied himself out and became Man, in order that he could humble himself by going to the death of the cross in our place.
In the Church, then, it is the mind of Christ.
It is the conversation to honor another, the conversation of oneness and unity. It is the words spoken among brothers and sisters not to find the sin of others to bring shame, but to recognize our own sin unto repentance. It is the word spoken to encourage the distressed, to comfort the suffering, to speak affection and sympathy to those in pain.
It is the conversation spoken not to build up self and act virtuous, spoken not from selfish ambition, but spoken in humility, counting others more significant that ourselves. [Philippians 2:3]
In the Church, it is the mind we are given among ourselves, the mind of Christ, who humbled himself on our behalf by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death upon the cross, so that, having cleansed us with his own blood, he is now highly exalted by God the Father, who has bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so 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.
In the Name of Jesus.