Born in Human Likeness - Reflections 4-11-19

Texts for Sunday April 14, 2019
Palm Sunday


Isaiah 50:4-9a
Psalm 31:9-16
Philippians 2:5-11
Luke 19:28-40



And so, it begins. Holy Week starts on Sunday. By the end of next week, Jesus will be dead in the tomb. Some churches have moved to telling the whole story of Jesus’ crucifixion and death on this Sunday before Easter. Gloria Dei chooses to stay primarily with the Gospel text telling the story of Jesus entry into Jerusalem early in the week. But our other texts for this Sunday remind us that this parade is not just a happy, spontaneous event. Jesus has entered Jerusalem and, as he has told us earlier, he will die here.

The text from Philippians, specifically verses 6-11, is believed to be the oldest piece of literature from the early church, earlier even than Paul, whose first letter is believed to have been written around 50 CE. This fragment from early Christians, seems styled as a piece of liturgy, maybe a hymn, or a creedal statement for use in worship. Because it offers a look at what the people barely removed from Jesus’ time understood about Jesus, it is treasured by the church. 

In its brief lines, this “hymn” connects Christmas to Easter to the end of time. Jesus became flesh and dwelt among us. As flesh, he died on the cross. As our risen Lord, heaven and earth praises him.

It describes our path through baptism, emptying our “old self” (as Luther would say), to be raised to new life in Christ where we join hands in praise with all who confess that Jesus is Lord.

It also states the radical claim of the early Christians that Jesus is Lord not the Emperor/Caesar. People got killed for that defiant claim. 

But, as time moved along, Christianity moved to the privileged status of a state religion.  And it became an integral part of oppressive power systems through the centuries.  Jesus’ humility, surrender, obedience started to be used against those who were subjugated. It was used against subjects, peasants, slaves, and women. They were asked to give up what little power they had. Live in submission and self-negation.  In other words, for some…well, many…people, these words ceased being Gospel/Good News.

How sad. I really don’t think that “have the same mind that was that was in Jesus Christ” means that the people being oppressed are to be humiliated and subjugated under the privileged. Doesn’t this text say that Jesus did not regard equality with God (a privileged position to say the very least) as something to be exploited? So, wouldn’t this be a message to those with power? 

Power is a very God-like feeling. Put it aside and meet humanity eye-to-eye. And I don’t mean to make that sound like I’m only pointing my finger only at the systems that oppress. I understand that I am among the privileged. In fact, my privilege blinds me to how this text can feel to those who are not. 

Jesus came to show us what God was like. In that, some people need to be encouraged to hear that they are treasured and loved children of God who are invited to full life. Others need to hear that the "having the same mind as Christ" requires repentance, letting go, and stepping aside to welcome and receive all of God's beloved people as equal.

Every tongue should confess that Jesus is Lord. That is as radical for our world today as it was 2000 years ago.

How do you “let the same mind that was in Christ” be in you? What does that look like in your life?

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Written by Pam Larabee-Zierath


Gathered by Grace, Scattered for Service
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