Full on Empty
January 19, 2020 | Bryan Simmons
Passage: Philippians 2:1-11
First and foremost, I want to thank everybody for being here and for braving the cold weather just to get here. Congratulations, you made it! It's warm inside. We are all together.
There's a temptation out there when it's cold like this. We want to kind of close in, we want to hide, we want to hibernate from this weather. Shut ourselves off from the world out there until it's springtime, and it's nice again. And why not? It does seem to shut down a lot of activity -- until we have to get out and shovel and that kind of thing.
It makes me think of something a little more serious when we do that, you know the elements, the winter makes us close ourselves off. But, as a society, we're closed off as well. We kind of turn inwardly and focus on ourselves so easily in our society now. It doesn't have to just be the winter.
We tend to focus on ourselves or maybe our families. But outside of that, we pay more of an auxiliary attention. We are in an "I" society, out of which came the iPhone. And in that iPhone, and the commercials going on are that the latest innovation is slow motion selfies. That's just just what people need, right? It's for me to take this out and you can see me doing stuff in slow motion.
I don't know if, a still selfie, you would want to see of me anyway. It's this idea that we are at the center. We are the best. We can share glorious shots of ourselves for the likes. We have closed off ourselves as a society, and have looked inward in this iPhone generation. To the detriment of others. Oh, sure, we keep up on the news, and we pay attention that way. But do we truly, really sacrifice for the sake of the other?
This text comes as quite a shock to us. I know many of us have heard it before, and we've heard this idea of Jesus emptying himself, but, really, truly think of what that means. And honestly, you know, as much as it's easy to condemn this iPhone generation, this age that we live in, I think it was just as surprising in 1st century Rome to hear Him say the words spoken.
Certainly in that culture, the haves and the have-nots were more divided than we are. You either had most of it, or you had none of it at all, struggling to make ends meet.
This idea that this Jesus, whom by the time Paul wrote, was still an actual person in history that they were talking about, wasn't just a concept that we think of now. That these people that knew of this Jesus that was crucified; and that the claim is that Jesus was raised from the dead. Some people knew this Jesus. Other people knew of people who knew this Jesus.
And then Paul quotes this hymn, this Christ hymn that is even closer to the time of Jesus's resurrection. It says "Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus. Though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, grasped onto, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave. Being born in human likeness and being found in human form, he humble himself and became obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross."
It's an incredible statement to make that this Jesus of history is a person that people either knew of directly or knew of somebody who knew Him directly; that this Jesus to be equated with God; that this Jesus was God. Jesus is God. He gave up the stature, gave up that prominence, entered in, in the incarnation, to our mortal reality.
This God the Son did not have to do this at all. There was no real reason or benefit for Jesus to die like this. He chose to- willingly chose to, obediently chose to. And it becomes the most wonderful story, the most powerful story of love that we have.
Don't know about you, but we struggle with giving up things, we struggle with giving up stature, especially. Once we get up to a management position, right, or we move up that ladder, and when we become more prominent in our careers. Very rarely does anybody say, well, I think I've done enough of this level, I'm going back to the entry level position I was at for the sake of someone, you know?
None of us really do that. There may be someone in this congregation that has and congratulations to you. I'm going to tell you that it's not the norm. We very rarely want to keep up stature, very rarely wanted to truly sacrifice for the sake of the other.
What's crazy about it is this idea of Jesus giving up that equal status with God, this equal power, this very being of God for the sake of entering into this mortal life, exposing Himself to death for our sake.
We can't accomplish on our own. The most we can do is we can give up our very lives for someone else, like a soldier falling on a grenade to save the people around them. Or like somebody rushing to push someone out of the way before they get hit by the car themselves.
You can't accomplish much, even if we sacrifice our very selves, because we didn't have as much to give up as Jesus did, and Jesus' suffering goes beyond death. But God the Son experienced separation from God the Father and agony that you and I will never have to know. All because Jesus chose to do for you and for me. That power of forgiveness, of love, remains so strong in our lives.
You know, when I was first here, at my first stewardship committee meeting, we talked about what the next theme would be for the upcoming stewardship campaign. And I suggested, well, what about, "Jesus gave at all? We're just asking for money." As you may have experienced in this congregation, we did not go forward with that theme.
But it really does sum it up, doesn't it? It really does show this distance that we have, with not only the fact that Jesus did give everything up to you and for me, but the magnitude of what Jesus sacrificed, the magnitude of what Jesus gave and how we can't match that.
But what we can do is we can proclaim this good news of Jesus. We can proclaim this alternate testament of love. So that, generations to come, they know who God is and the forgiveness, the promise and hope that comes in knowing Jesus's life, death, and resurrection.
We've embarked on this capital campaign, "For such a time as this," looking to reach a lofty goal of 1.5 million, of which we're already 400 and some thousand there, 426 I think. And it's in trying to accomplish this, we want a stronger Bethesda for generations to come to proclaim this message of who Jesus is for the sake of the world. Because we cannot accomplish what Jesus did.
Beauty is Jesus accomplished it for us. So how can we not, with every fiber of our being, keep our focus on that message. Keep our focus on proclamation. Keep our focus on sharing that abundance of love that we have been shown. Sharing our time, talents, and treasures towards that focus. So that many more than us can understand the love of God;can understand the power of forgiveness; can understand the freedom of the gospel.
It is Jesus whom we point to. It is Jesus who accomplished what needed to be accomplished for our sake. It is that ultimate story of love and sacrifice that we can point to, that we can sacrifice towards for the sake of a stronger society. We don't have to be closed off; we don't have to be the iPhone generation. We don't have to worry about slow motion selfies, even though they might be really cool. We can point to Christ; we can focus on the mission of doing so. So that all may know the kingdom come. Amen.