The Christian Motto

Proper 21 (26) - September 27, 2020
- Ezekiel 18:1-4, 25-32
- Psalm 25:1-9
- Philippians 2:1-13
- Matthew 21:23-32
The Christian Motto
    In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  Amen. 

    Anyone know the traditional Motto for the US?  E pluribus unum. Maybe the more important question, does anyone know what it means?  Out of many, one.  It was adopted by congress in 1782.  In 1956, the US adopted “in God we trust” as the official motto, but the traditional motto never went away.  The traditional Motto was adopted because out of 13 colonies, a single nation was born.  A nation that would eventually grow into 50 states and 5 territories.  This union was nearly divided permanently in the 1860’s during the civil war. But out of the ashes, our nation was reborn.  And every generation since those early days of the colonies, has helped America  re-invent herself to meet the needs of her citizens.  It’s the story of our past that we tell our children.  How our ancestors, though they were not perfect, worked together to create a nation governed by the people, for the people.  And though, it has taken many years for ALL the people to be included in that dream, this dream is what inspires so many around the world to come to our shores, looking for a better life.  When Hamilton was released on July 3, 2020, how many of us tuned in to see this epic, broadway show.  And even though that show wasn’t able to capture all the complexities of that moment in history, it pulled on many of our heart strings—it reminded us that despite all of America’s problems and sins, that America can rise to the occasion.  E pluribus unum - Out of many, one.  
    So, that is America.  But we are church and our church has been around a lot longer than the US or any other government for that matter. Our story as the church is far more important than our nation’s story.  So, what is our motto?  What’s our Christian motto?  What is that idea that binds us together as Christians—followers of Christ? Depending on who you ask, read, or listen to, some might say it’s: God helps those who help themselves.  Although, that was Benjamin Franklin, and while I have a lot of respect for the man, he was no theologian.  That statement is nowhere in the Bible. Others might say that our motto says, “If you pray really hard, God will help you.”  “If you are suffering, that means God is punishing you.  You just need to pray harder.”  For some, that is the Christian motto—suffering bad...pray harder, yet none of these statements have any kind of scriptural basis whatsoever.  

    In fact, as we talked about last week, suffering is what we do as the Body of Christ.  So, our Christian motto then, must be rooted in suffering.  You know, throughout the Pauline corpus, one main theme at the heart and center of everything he wrote was the cross.  The cross changed everything and had major implications on the entire universe.  The cross changed everything through something called Co-morphotology.

    Co-morphotology is actually a term made up by my seminary professor, Dr. Richard Carlson.  Co-morphotology, “is God’s transformative power by which we were morphed into the dominion of Christ, have been morphed into cruciform reality, will be morphed into resurrected reality and how we co-participate in the reality which is Christ.”  Paul constantly talks about the importance of living “in Christ” as being the reality of our lives in Christ’s dominion into which we have been made morphed-Christians.  Through the power of the gospel, Paul believes that we have been co-morphed into the reality which is Jesus Christ by the activity/agency of the Spirit.   This means that because we are morphed into Christ, we will experience the same joy and suffering of Jesus.    

    That is what Paul is saying when he quotes this hymn—let the same mind be in you that is in Christ Jesus.  Through our baptism, we are co-morphed and therefore we seek ways to imitate, mirror our Lord—to be in the same mind as our Lord.  As Christians, we desire to be in the same mindset as Jesus.  These words Paul writes here in Philippians 2 are important and fundamental to understanding the entirety of the Pauline Corpus.  These words are the foundation on which Paul builds his theological framework in all of his letters.  But what I find most interesting about these words are they were most likely a hymn, a familiar hymn probably sung often, probably as beloved as Amazing grace, I love to the tell the story or how great thou art.  The words from this beautiful hymn tell us our Christian motto: 
Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, 7 but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, 8 he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death -- even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

    That is our motto:  Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ.  Christ’s mind was focus on not regarding himself as equal to God, but rather was on emptying himself for humanity, to be a servant/a slave, and be obedient even unto death.  Our motto is to be in the same mind as Christ—To be rooted in the cross.  That is what a godly life looks like. A godly life is not rooted in burnt offerings, fasting, or other human endeavors.  Rather, a godly life is found in the suffering death of Jesus on the cross.  To understand God first means we must look to the cross and do as Christ did. No longer are we to view God as all powerful, but as both a crucified slave who God redeemed and granted the gift of resurrection. This what unites as the body of Christ—being in the same mind as Christ. 

    Unity, though, does not equal uniformity.  In fact, it is quiet the opposite.  “Paul’s statement on unity in verse 3 has to be understood not as a call for uniformity, but as making a space for others, as opening oneself for otherness. It is about being hospitable.”  Paul tells the church in Philippi, reminding them through this beautiful hymn, to prioritize others, to put others first.” To offer absolute hospitality,” which means that when the other knocks at the door, one does not even need to ask the name or the origin of the other; one simply opens the door to welcome the other in.”

    Can you imagine a place like that, my brothers and sisters?  A place where the needs are all met?  A place where we don’t even have to ask, “What is wrong?”  That is what it means to be in the same mind of our Lord.  For this is what unites us as one.

    How are we, as the church, going to respond to the when “others” come: when they do not speak English, when they dress differently, smell differently, worship differently, sing differently? Will the church look not to own interests but to the interests of the others? Will the church open its door to otherness?

    Let the same mind be in you that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.  That is our Motto. This is where we find our unity and our strength.  And just as the United States continues to explore what "E pluribus unum" means, we must continue to explore our motto as well.  What does it look like to be in the same mind as Christ Jesus, our Lord?  May you feel and recognized that you have been co-morphed into God’s transformative power as seen through the lens of this cruciform reality and resurrection reality—and may you realize that you are a co-participant in this motto Christ presented to the world on cross.  May your mindset be that in same mindset of our Lord, and may you bring a little glimmer of the kingdom to the world around you.

    In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  Amen.  


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