Tagged: Incarnation

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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John 1:(1-9), 10-18

This text is used for the Lectionary Year C on January 3, 2016.

John 1 1-18I’m never entirely sure what to do when the lectionary hands me a set of verses, half of which are in parentheses.  Does that mean those verses are a suggestion or does it indicate they are less crucial to the liturgical season on hand? Or does the lectionary committee simply mean to honor my skill as a preacher treating me like a quarterback with an ability to call an audible after a quick look at the congregation.  “This bunch looks engaged, I think I’ll unpack the cryptic prologue,” or “This group looks like they’ve been to a Christmas party thrown by Christians who’ve found their freedom in Christ, I better stick with the basics.”

Then again I find that I’m always asking that sort of question of John, no matter what the season is or what verses I’m assigned.  I have to slow down for John more than any other gospel.  It has been said that the fourth evangelist provides waters in which elephants can swim and children can wade.  John is consistently assigned the eagle when the church is distributing the images of the four creatures found in Ezekiel and Revelation.   Why?  Because with that eagle we share a high-flying omniscient perspective.  That’s helpful because in John we are constantly looking at the layers of meaning.  Take for example Jesus’ statement to Nicodemus in chapter three when Jesus tells him that he will be “lifted up.”  The Greek word is hypso and it can me just that, lifted up, as in Jesus was lifted up off of the ground on a cross or it can mean exalted, as in being an elevated object of worship.  John uses this kind of double entendre often, leaving clever interpretation to his readers.

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John 14:1-14

This text is used for the Lectionary Year A on May 18, 2014.

Jesus’s conversation with his disciples in John 14 is a staple at Christian funerals.  Rightly so, for in this passage we have the enormously comforting promise that Jesus will come back that his followers might be with him forever more.  The recollection of this promise should not be reserved for the graveside.  It should be preached from the pulpit, as well.  The pulpit provides an opportunity to explore the richness of this passage in full including its understanding of the key doctrines of the incarnation and salvation. Continue reading