Encouragement, consolation, love, sharing, compassion, sympathy
Sermon: September 27, 2020
To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul. O my God, in you I trust; do not let me be put to shame; do not let my enemies exult over me. Do not let those who wait for you be put to shame; let them be ashamed who are wantonly treacherous.
Make me to know your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth, and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation;
for you I wait all day long.
Be mindful of your mercy, O Lord, and of your steadfast love, for they have been from of old. Do not remember the sins of my youth or my transgressions; according to your steadfast love remember me, for your goodness' sake, O Lord!
Good and upright is the Lord; therefore he instructs sinners in the way.
He leads the humble in what is right, and teaches the humble his way.
If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others.
Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death -- even death on a cross.
Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Therefore, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed me, not only in my presence, but much more now in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure.
Dear Sisters and brothers in Christ, grace to you and peace, from our Lord, Jesus Christ, the exalted, at whose name we bend our knee, whom we exalt as Lord. Amen.
Paul begins this part of his letter to the Philippians with these words: “If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy . . .”
Encouragement, consolation, love, sharing, compassion, sympathy . . . all of these things are vital, not only for us as followers of Jesus, but really for all people. And sometimes I feel that they are sorely missing in our lives. And we need them now more than ever.
Encouragement in Christ; Finding encouragement in Christ for our selves; knowing that we are good to go with God because of Jesus, knowing that Jesus has defeated death once and for all; that is the just the kind of encouragement we all need. And, offering encouragement of Christ to others; knowing that those we meet and know and those we do not know are all children of God in Jesus, and are just as worthy, perhaps even more worthy than ourselves to be recipients of Christ’s encouragement.
Life is hard, really hard right now. And we need courage. We need to be encouraged. And this whole world needs us to receive this encouragement from Jesus, and to offer it up to all those around us.
Consolation: Consolation is comfort received or given by someone after a loss or disappointment. Compassion; compassion means to suffer with someone in their hurt and pain, to be so open to others as to risk going through what they go through. Sympathy; to sympathize means to understand, to feel, other’s misfortunes. Sharing; to give what one has to help others in need.
Do you see a pattern here? All of these important things have to do with caring for and seeing to the needs of others, to be in relationship with others, to love others with the love of Jesus.
Paul continues: “be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus . . .”
Paul insists that he would like to see the Philippians being “of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind” One could read this as a call to erase all differences by subjecting them to the same mind.However, the idea of being of the same mind is not the end of the story in this letter. The next two verses are crucial to how we understand what is going on. Paul writes, “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves.
Let each of you look not to your own interests,
but to the interests of others”. The same mind, same love, full accord, and one mind of which Paul speaks cannot be about erasing differences because he immediately urges them to regard the other as more important.
Sisters and brothers in Christ, forces in our world, in our country, in our community, are trying so hard to try to put us into an us or them reality; you are either for us, or you are against us; and if you don’t agree with me, then I don’t even have to acknowledge you. And worse yet, we are living in a time when so much value is placed on freedom. But this freedom that is gripping our world is not freedom, it is narcissism. “Don’t tread on my freedom, I am free to do what I want . . .” this is not freedom, this is bondage to the self and is opposite of how Jesus calls us to live, what Jesus calls us to be.
This is such a hard time for all of us right now. We are hurting in so many ways. And when we hurt, it is easy to close off oneself from others, to curve in to ourselves.
But have the courage of Christ.
Know that Jesus died for you,
that Jesus has defeated death once and for all,
that Jesus has given you others to love and to be loved by, to console and to be consoled by,
to receive compassion from and to be compassionate to. Know that we,
even though we are so different from each other, are beloved by God who is at work in each and every one of us. Amen.