Lent.5–Engage: Community

by admin on April 7, 2014

Reflections for 6 April 2014
Philippians 2:1-11

From this week’s Engage reading……Relationship, and therefore community, is at the very heart of what it means to be human, and to be created in the image and likeness of the Triune God…..the very nature of God is relational—open, participatory, receptive and welcoming.

The discipline of community is one of the most vital ways we can reflect God in the world. It is the radical commitment to open ourselves up to the transformative work of God’s Spirit as we encounter God in one another, for we can never really encounter another person and be left unchanged. It is a participation in God’s work of redemption and reconciliation in the world.

“Christians don’t simply learn or study or use Scripture; we assimilate it, take it into our lives in such a way that it gets metabolized into acts of love, cups of cold water, missions into all the world, healing and evangelism and justice in Jesus’ name, hands raised in adoration of the Father, feet washed in company with the Son.” Eugene Peterson

George Lindbeck: to become a Christian involves learning the story of Jesus well enough to interpret and experience your world and yourself in its terms.

This passage has a history of interpretative difficulty. Been mined for answers to deep—later theological issues. Paul’s intent here is to exhort his audience to continue what they are already doing—living the life of Jesus Christ in their bodies. C.f. Romans 12:1-2. This passage provides a pattern of behavior for those who belong to Christ and to point toward the reward promised for such behavior.

Vv1-14⇒ Unity = set one’s mind on the same thing. (2:5; 3:15, 19; 4:2) Acting out of humility (2:8; 3:21; 4:12) Holding the needs of others in high regard (1:23-26; 2:20, 25).
V1⇒ Use of “if” in Greek states case exactly. That is to say: if there is any encouragement—and there is…. Reality. “Since there is…..” How does this make sense as you read/hear it?
V2⇒ complete my joy = the only imperative in the entire passage. Four expressions: same mind, love, full accord, of one mind. Does not mean to agree on everything but to have a common attitude and orientation. Attitude = launch pad. “Being in full accord” = joined souls.
V3⇒ Selfishness = partisan for hire/rival. Conceit = empty glory.
V4⇒ Scope out the territory: yourself, yes….but more importantly…others.

Vv5-11⇒ Paul presents the story of Christ’s incarnation as the ultimate paradigm for humility and obedience requested of the Philippians. And Christ’s exultation as the basis for vindication and reward that awaits them. In the deliberate act of humility and obedience Christ emptied himself by taking human form—radically described as “slave”. This means his death in exact accord to that identity. Humility, humanity, humor all from humus—dirt. Down to earth and real.

1. This passage usually focused on Christ’s exultation. Today let’s focus on Christian behavior of the believing community. What we believe has direct implications for our behavior. Remember….the radical shift in ancient thinking. Ethics is intimately connected to my religious life and observance. How do I act out the confession: Jesus is Lord?

In recalling their life as a community continually formed by the gospel Paul uses here a number of key word/ideas from chapter 1: joy, fellowship, love, partnership, affection, unity, mindset/attitude and he does so in language that ASSUMES these experiences are already genuinely theirs.

In other words, Paul is not raising any question/doubt about the genuineness of the Philippians life and faith. That shoots the usually presupposition of preachers: these are bad people who need my correction.

Here is a call for spiritual progress not perfection. By rejecting the guilt trip approach Paul is able to nourish his argument with the most unused and neglected resource in the church—namely, who the members are (body of Christ) and what they already know (we are clay pots).

2. Let’s consider Paul’s relationship with the people of Philippi. Make my joy complete. Paul always had trouble credentialing his apostleship. He appealed to his Damascus road experience as just as authoritative as walking around the Sea of Galilee. Many considered him second string. What are the credentials of being an apostle? Apostle = one who is sent?

Paul appeals to his evidence—to the community he started. The clear evidence of his apostleship was the result of his work—true churches (called out people) of Christ. They embodied the living Jesus Christ. If they failed to live by faith in the grace of God and to offer themselves to each other and their role as servants after the manner of Christ, them Paul saw himself as having labored in vain.

What is the legacy of a preacher? How much closer to Christ—his life in mine; his attitudes in me; his suffering and death mine? Let the mind of Christ form you. Spiritual formation. This is why Paul says “complete my joy”

What kind of perspective do you have because you hang around here? How does that view form and determines you thoughts and behavior?

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