Sunday, 28 March 2010

Imitating Jesus

Lent 6 year C Sermon Phil 2:1-11

Twenty eight years after Jesus’ triumphal and dangerously subversive entry… into Jerusalem…
twenty eight
long years…after Jesus arrest and death by crucifixion… years of church planting… conflict management… persecution and imprisonment

the apostle
Paul writes …one of the most practical and inspiring passages in all Scripture...words from prison…
full of
confidence and support… for his weary friends in Philippi. Let us listen for a word from God as Paul writes…

‘If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, any comfort from his love, any fellowship with the Spirit, any tenderness and compassion…

then make my joy complete.. by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose.

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit

but in humility consider othersbetter than yourselves

Each of you should look… not only to your own interests…but also to the interests of others.

Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:

Who, being in very nature God…
didn’t consider
equality with God something to be grasped … but made himself nothing
taking the very nature
of a servant, being made in human likeness.

And being found in appearance as a human being
humbled himself and became obedient …….
to death— even death on a cross!

That’s why God exalted him to the highest place

and gave him the name above every name,

that at the name of Jesusevery knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and
under the earth,
every tongue confess… that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.

And every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord

Paul’s letter to the church in Philippi…

is much like a spontaneous email you and I might write to beloved friends. In this letter Paul opens his heart
and expresses his
affection…and he talks about himself more often than in… any of his other letters.

And Philippians just rambles along… like a friendly email would …filled with personal news and outbursts of feeling. Paul uses the words joy or rejoice sixteen timesand he’s writing from prison! Chained…

day and night to a guard.

Is he nuts…is he manic…to feel like this in prison…or has Paul discovered…a source of deep and sustaining spiritual nurture…one he wants to share with his friends…I think he has

Pauls’s discovered that…the joy that comes from being united with Christ… in the fellowship of the Holy Spirit … this joy… is somehow greater than happiness…


Because it doesn’t depend on what happens. This is practical joy….joy you can use…every day… even if you’re weary or persecuted or discouraged by failure.

And in the midst of all this stuff about practical joy… Paul writes one of the most important…most poetic descriptions of Jesus in the whole new testament

And he writes this masterpiece…not to resolve some theological conflict in life of the church
but to re-
enforce… the common everyday duties…
of the Christian life

When you’re wondering how to behave…or you're your attitude should be… choose to imitate Jesus

choose humility. And Paul supports and reinforces the practical Christian virtue of humility… with a profound doctrinal truth and mystery… concerning the divinity and humanity of Jesus. [pause]

Like the prophet Isaiah

Paul seeks a practical word… to sustain the weary
finds it… in the practise of

being united with Christ…and the comfort of his love, and in the practise of being in fellowship with the Holy Spirit…where tenderness and compassion are to be found.

But if you as individuals or as the church are to get any encouragement from being united with Christ…

this spiritual practise has to have legs…Paul’s saying …you have to make it into a life style…
carry it into everything you do…

then your attitude should be the same as Jesus.

You will be imitators of Christ. You can’t fudge this… because the whole doctrine of who Jesus isupholds it.

If you’re united with
Christ…you can’t justify elevating yourself above other people…you can’t justify looking down on anyone … you can’t justify selfish ambition or the vain conceit… of looking in the mirror and saying ‘well at least I’m better than they are’ but in humility consider others better than yourselves.

It’s ok to look after yourselves…but not only your own interests… also the interests of others

This isn’t some namby pamby touchy feely lilly livered willy woofterish take… on living the Christian life

it's the result of the practise of being united with the love, the tenderness and the compassion…
of the
Word of God… made flesh in time and space …who made himself a servant…not a general…or CEO of Israel Inc.

It's the result of being united with the one… who in obedience to God’s will and saving message of Shalom … took on all our human frailty…
even… our susceptibility… to death…

even death on a cross!

That’s why his name is to be revered above other names …that’s why at the name of Jesus every knee should bow and every tongue confess… that Jesus Christ is Lord…and master…that he’s the one to follow.

And how is that supposed to happen…when the church is continually on trial for its arrogance and hypocrisy…
whether in the streets of
Philippi or on the television screens of the world.

How can Jesus’ name be honoured and respected… when his followers abuse and exploit others…

for their own selfish ends… That’s what Paul wants to know…That’s what I want to know…

And that’s what Paul wants us to avoid
encouraging the imitation of Christ

Because of his
own weakness…Paul knows full well… just how quickly we can lose the plot…how easy it is for things go wrong…when we allow our own selfishness and greed and overshadow the humility…
that come from unity with

Paul’s saying that arrogance pride and hypocrisy are the real evils to avoid… You don’t abuse and exploit others when you’re looking out for their interests as well as your own…whether they’re pagans in the Roman Empire…widows and orphans in Palestine

or innocent children under the care of the church.

Today the whole church is once again on trial…

for its arrogance and hypocrisy
and that’s as it
should be…as the world continues to measure us… against the one we claim to follow…
as the world continues to
compare… our words and our actions…as individuals and as faith communities…
to the one who took obedience to the principle of
Shalom… all the way to the cross. [pause]

Today there’s nowhere to hide…when the church fails to imitate the humility of Christ. When we cause little children to stumble…or hit out those who are different… We can’t claim moral authority…
because we don’t
have it…remember?

the one we follow humbled himself in obedience… all the way to the cross

And Paul reminds us…the point isn’t to claim the moral high ground…in the mirror or in the media…the point… is to be united with Christ in humility looking after the interest of others as well as our own.

The point isn’t to elevate ourselves above the community…the point is to serve it...

And I am with Paul…regardless of what happens… remain in unity with Christ…and imitate him… and you will discover the joy that goes way beyond happiness… It’s the most practical thing you can do…

in your daily lives…and it is the word…
sustains the weary…