Sunday’s Scripture ~ Philippians 2:1-11
This week we turn to the first major theme in the New Testament: Incarnation-Salvation. I couple these themes together because I believe the presence of one brings about the presence of the other.
When discussing Incarnation-Salvation we are talking about God’s one and only, begotten not created, Son – Jesus Christ. As we read the Gospels and examine the epistle texts, like this week’s from Philippians, we gather from Scripture that who Jesus is – Christology: the study of the person of Christ – is inextricably linked to Soteriology: the study of what the person of Christ does, which is save.
So when Jesus was incarnated and entered the world, it was with a specific purpose – to save humanity and redeem all of creation. Incarnation-Salvation.
In our Scripture lesson this week Paul describes that in Jesus’ incarnation Jesus emptied himself that he would be able to save humanity. Paul sets Christ as an example for all humanity in this text. Paul encourages us to empty ourselves that we may be God’s hands and feet and participate in the salvation of the world for ourselves and for others.
Paul wanted the Philippians to do this, but it wasn’t in the vain of “do this for me. Win this one for me.” The Philippians empty themselves not for Paul’s sake, but for Christ’s sake. Pastor Fred Craddock writes, “If [the Philippians] failed to live by faith in the grace of God and to offer themselves to each other and the world as servants after the manner of Christ, then Paul saw himself as having labored in vain” (Craddock, Philippians, 36, emphasis added).
When we empty ourselves – following the example of Christ – we do so for Christ and Christ alone. When a person encounters pastors, religious leaders, Sunday School teachers, small group facilitators and is asked to respond to particular teaching it is not (and should not!) be in the vain of “do this for me.” It’s not about them. (And for the folks at Reeves, it’s not about me!) It’s about the budding relationship between the individual and Christ, about what Jesus has asked and asks that individual to do.
In emptying out ourselves we prepare our minds to turn our focus towards our neighbors. We do not lose our identity our individualism in this emptying. Paul supported individualism “in the sense that one is to be responsible for oneself and bear one’s own burden” BUT “if minding one’s own business meant unwillingness to bear another’s burdens, a distracting oneself from partnership in the gospel, an aloofness from the common joy and suffering, a coldness to all the ways we are members for one another, then such individualism is destructive of the community and a contradiction of the gospel which speaks and sings of a Christ who was first and always the servant of others” (Craddock, Philippians, 38).
*whew! That was a long sentence…definitely a good one! Marinate on those words for a while: unwillingness, distracting, aloofness, coldness – all of those are destructive. All of those words paint of picture in opposition of who and what Christ wants us to be.*
In emptying ourselves, our visions become clear. This clarity hones our focus. No longer are we unwilling, distracted, aloof, or cold. Our focus is our neighbor.
In emptying himself, Christ’s vision became clear. This clarity honed his focus. He was never unwilling, distracted, aloof, or cold. His focus was and is his neighbor. You – me – humanity – for eternity.
Thanks be to God.
Prayer: Gracious Lord, in the words of Wesley’s Covenant Prayer:
I am no longer my own, but thine. Put me to what thou wilt, rank me with whom thou wilt. Put me to doing, put me to suffering. Let me be employed by thee or laid aside for thee, exalted for thee or brought low for thee. Let me be full, let me be empty. Let me have all things, let me have nothing. I freely and heartily yield all things to they pleasure and disposal. And now, O glorious and blessed God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, thou art mine, and I am thine. So be it. And the covenant which I have made on earth, let it be ratified in heaven. Amen.