Philippians 2:5-11

This text is used for the Lectionary Year A on April 9, 2017.

Philippians 2:5-11 is one of the most familiar and discussed texts of Scripture. These seven verses entertain theological issues such as the hypostatic union of Jesus, the kenotic formula, and the ontological and functional realities of the Trinity. Though these issues have their place, these are not really the matters Paul is addressing. The milieu of this passage is one of believers learning to live their life as a community. It is a text ethical in nature in which Paul stimulates the practice of humility and unity among the believers exhibiting Jesus as the supreme example. The preacher needs to be careful not to get entangled in doctrinal issues that could detract from the greater message.

Following his greeting to the community of Philippi (1:1–2), Paul prays for them to reach unity (1:3–11). Next, he presents his own life as an example (1:12–26; 4:9) and exhorts the church to live lives of humility and unity without (1:27–30) and within the congregation (2:1–4). To illustrate, Paul draws from what is most likely an early Christian hymn-poem that praises Christ’s story of incarnation, crucifixion, and exaltation (2:5–11), and urges the Philippians to pattern Christ’s life story to address their particular situation (2:12-18).

Paul exhorts them to have “the mind of Christ” (2:5). In their mutual relations, they should adopt the same attitude of love and humility that marked the Lord (2:5). But, isn’t it true that one thing is to be called to have “the mind of Christ,” and another to nurture such habit of mind individually and collectively? So, how can the Philippians be a people characterized by unity and humility? Paul intimates that the first step is to know well Christ’s story. This is the Gospel story of Christ leaving the glories of his preexistent, eternal state to undertake humanity through cross death.

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Isaiah 50:4-9a

This text is used for the Lectionary Year A on April 10, 2017.

My youngest daughter has me on a very high pedestal. Her trust in me is limitless. When something breaks, her response is, “Daddy can fix it.” When a comparison is drawn among her little friends, I am always the victor. When in fear she thinks, “Daddy will save me.”

The “servant of Yahweh” plays a central role in second Isaiah. It’s exegetically correct to note that nothing significant distinguishes who this servant is. However, Christians typically hold that this is a foretelling of Jesus. Jewish tradition holds that the servant is actually the community of Israel. In either case, the fact holds that the servant is faithful to Yahweh, in the midst of mistreatment.

This is one section of a more complete picture that second Isaiah is trying to paint of a singular “servant of Israel.” The entire narrative captured in Isaiah 49:1-50:11. The breakdown of the passage is as following:

The servant introduced 49:1-7
Reaffirmation of return and restoration 49:8-13
Israel’s statements of reluctance 49:14,24
Yahweh’s answers to their reluctance 49:15-23,25-26
Yahweh’s statements about exile 50:1-3
The obedient servant 50:4-9
Reprobation if they follow their own light 50:10-11

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Romans 8:6-11

This text is used for the Lectionary Year A on April 2, 2017.

Romans chapter 8 is the highpoint section in Paul’s most remarkable letter. Romans 8:6-11, along with the previous five verses (8:1-5) and subsequent six verses (8:12-17), conveys a series of dichotomies: flesh vs. the Spirit; death vs. life; the law of the Spirit of life vs. the law of sin and of death; death and resurrection; Spirit of God and children of God; spirit of slavery vs. Spirit of adoption. Verses 6-11 form a small part of a broader exposition Paul provides the contrast between flesh and Spirit. It is crucial for the preacher to understand Paul’s perception concerning these two forces and to avoid misrepresenting the metaphorical concepts he uses to convey his message.

Do we understand what Paul means by “flesh”? How should preachers interpret Paul today, particularly, in a world where we idolize attractive celebrities, vigorous athletes, carnal desires, while we are embarrassed by grotesqueness, physical atrophy, and the ailments of senility?

Is the Apostle’s understanding of “flesh” as trivial as that diffused by today’s secularized culture? Is Paul simply offering us the pitfalls of network television? Is he describing practical Christianity with the unreserved dismissal of the luxuries of a consumer-driven society? Perhaps this is what countless of faithful believers assume.

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Ezekiel 37:1-14

This text is used for the Lectionary Year A on April 2, 2017.

On February 11, 1990, Nelson Mandela walked out of the Victor Verster Prison after 27 ½ years. His wife holding one hand and the other hand held high in a closed fist of victory. Certainly, there were days of hopeless darkness, but that day he embraced his freedom. He was a man who was prepared to die for the anti-apartheid efforts in South Africa but was breathing new life.

Body language can tell you all you need to know at times. Mandela’s posture was victorious, but other times it was probably closer to the fetal position. The prophet Ezekiel is speaking to a people whose demeanor, attitude, and hope had dried up. Their hope was like dried, dead bones.

This people of promise, God’s chosen people, had been enslaved in Egypt, freed, wilderness wanders, conquers, occupiers, and now foreigners. They have been exiled in three different waves as consequence for their intentional, calculated, and disobedient worship of false gods. The posture of the people was marked by disobedience more than faithfulness.

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