Mount Olive Lutheran Church
Home About Worship Music and Arts Parish Life Learning Outreach News Contact
Mount Olive Lutheran Church

Monday, April 18, 2011

Sermon from April 17, 2011 + The Sunday of the Passion, year A

“Having the Same Mind”

Pr. Joseph G. Crippen
Texts: Philippians 2:5-11; Matthew 26:14 – 27:66

Sisters and brothers, grace to you, and peace in the name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen

It would be well for us to consider carefully the conflicting emotions this liturgy embraces. Ever since, in the mid-1970’s, Lutherans in the United States began returning to the historic designation of this day as the Sunday of the Passion, thus combining both the liturgy of the entrance with palms and a focus on a reading of one of the Passion accounts, this has been a day with two strong emotional centers. Joy and sorrow, “hosanna” and “crucify,” celebration and devastation – these are the poles around which we meet God this morning.

Here’s our challenge. Can we see the beauty and wisdom of the Passion instead of idolizing the pomp and glory of the palms? If we do think about this day, there tends to be a wistful sense of regret, a desire that the shouts of “hosanna” didn’t have to transform to shouts of “crucify.” A sense that something goes wrong for Jesus after the triumphal entrance, that the week falls apart for him.

What is clear from the witness of Scripture, including the entirety of Jesus’ ministry and teaching, through the interpretation of Paul and the other early Church leaders, is that in fact, the entrance with palms was the aberration, the thing which Jesus rejected, and the Passion was truly the whole point of Jesus’ incarnation among us. Far from being a regrettable loss, this was the goal all along.

Paul invites us to be of the same mind as Christ Jesus this morning. To see our lives in the world as Jesus saw his. Which means for us not only seeing the Passion as Jesus’ finest hour, as his chief word to us about God’s intention for the world, but also seeing the Passion as our call to live as disciples of this same Jesus, the Son of God.

What the Passion shows us is simply God’s plan for how this world works and how it can be healed.

It is completely counter-intuitive, which is a sign of how broken our human nature has become. God’s message to the world in Jesus is that the only way to healing and restoring of the world is self-giving love, not use of power.

Matthew’s Passion makes this clearer than the others in this little vignette we heard, where Jesus tells the disciples that had he wanted it he could have called upon 72,000 angels to defend him, fight for him. If he had wanted a political takeover, he could have accomplished it after the royal entrance he made into Jerusalem. But this was no new temptation for him: it was what the devil put before him at the outset of his ministry, in the wilderness. Use your divine power to get what you want.

Jesus’ suffering and death are truly God’s triumph, and not just in John’s Gospel where he states that overtly. They are a triumph of love over power, of self-giving over self-centeredness. And in this we find our call.

This is God’s reality: the world is broken, filled with hate and destruction. God’s dream of humanity caring for the earth and each other and living in loving relationship with God is barely a mirage. But if God could have accomplished this dream through use of power, Jesus would have done it.
Jesus is not a victim on the cross because he willingly chooses this direction. And says to us, “go and do likewise.” It is no accident that later this week Jesus will make this crystal clear when on the night of his betrayal he gives one commandment, and only one: love as I have loved you. Serve as I have served you.

What the Church has always known, though most often not lived, is that the way of Christ when lived will transform the world. Jesus’ death and resurrection have ended the power of death over us and begun the healing of the world. Now our self-giving lives and servant love – from the smallest moments of our personal lives to actions on a global scale – will continue to transform the world. In fact, it’s the only thing that ever has.

And if we didn’t believe the witness of Jesus and the early Church, the late 20th century should have confirmed it for us. It was a century of unprecedented war for the human race. Power over others was the currency of the day, and millions were slaughtered, with a worse political mess at the end of the century than at the beginning. The way of triumph and power was tested and found incredibly wanting.

In the meantime, almost forgotten now in our lust for more domination over others, there were powerful movements of self-giving love that transformed nation after nation. Poland. East Germany. Eastern Europe. India. South Africa. The United States. And now Egypt. Whole nations were changed, not through revolution. Through nonviolent resistance of evil. Self-giving love.

In all these places, not least the United States, there is much more work to be done. But we see that Jesus understood this truth all along. This is the way to the healing of the world. As did Gandhi. Dr. King. Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Tutu. Lech Walesa. And so many more. This world can be healed, with the help of God. Nonviolent resistance to evil wherever it is found transforms it. Love ends it.

So Paul asks us to look at the Passion of our Lord Jesus and see our clear call to do the same.

Have the same mind in you as was in Christ Jesus.

Who did not see equality with God as something to be exploited, but humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death. Who did not seek political power but lived in self-giving love. And saved us.

When we were children we sometimes thought, “If I ruled the world . . .”, and then would imagine what wonders we would perform. Mostly for our benefit. It is time for us to give up childish dreams and begin to ask Jesus’ question, “If I served the world . . .”, and see where that leads us.

This self-giving sacrificial love is what saves the world and us. And it is how we are called live. God give us the courage to so live in our daily lives, and the grace to begin our part in the healing of this world.

In the name of Jesus. Amen

No comments:

Post a Comment


Evangelical Lutheran Church in America Reconciling in ChristRIC

Copyright 2014 Mount Olive Lutheran Church