“Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus…”
So begins the second reading for Palm Sunday, also known as the Sunday of the Passion.
Sometimes, as part of my devotion, I take a word, a phrase, or a sentence, and concentrate on it. Those that practice the Lectio Divina, a traditional Benedictine practice of spiritual reading, are familiar with the idea of reading, meditating, praying, and contemplating. I find it helpful when I encounter a mental block, such as what I have been experiencing lately.
Periodically, I run into a mental quagmire in which I sit down to write and nothing comes to mind. The tank is empty. Perhaps that is not such an accurate statement. There are lots of thoughts running through my mind, but none that I care to share in such a public forum as this blog. And yet, knowing that many of you check in weekly to see whether I have posted anything, I feel obligated to come up with some nugget of inspiration or insight to post in order to satisfy the effort you have made by bothering to look here.
So I began my reading Sunday morning and focused on these words: “Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus.”
What does it mean to have the same mind in us that was in Christ Jesus? Three points in the reading are helpful:
1) Though he was in the form of God, he did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited.
2) He emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness.
3) And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death– even death on a cross.
That’s a pretty tall order for any human being. Our sinful human nature desires to exploit whatever status we can attain. We are taught from infancy to “be all that you can be.”
The phrase, “I am somebody,” also comes immediately to mind.
Likewise we are taught to be subservient to no one unless there is some advantage or benefit to be gained.
Humility runs counter to our ego.
So how can the same mind be in us that was in Christ Jesus?
I keep coming back to a word I use often, some might even say ad nauseum. That word is – relationship. If one reads the second chapter of Philippians from the beginning, a couple verses before this fifth verse we read, “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.”
That, perhaps, does more to explain what the author (Paul) means. The key is in our focus. When we are focused inward, it is impossible to let that same mind be in us that was in Christ Jesus. But if we shift that focus outward, our thinking is reversed. We aren’t called to be totally selfless, but when we interact with others, we can act out of care and concern for them more so than for us.
I think of a lady in my previous parish who had retired from the restaurant business, but still loved to cook. Several times a week she would make wonderful meals, put serving-size portions in Tupperware containers and bring them to church to give to those of our elderly who found it difficult to cook for themselves. The freezer in the church kitchen was stacked with soups, stews, and casseroles of all kinds that could be microwaved at a moment’s notice to feed anyone who may be in need (including her pastor).
This is but one example of service. But being of the same mind as Christ takes on other forms. A phone call, a visit, giving someone a ride, watching other’s children, praying for one another; are all ways that we can be Christ-like in our relationships. We aren’t called to journey to the cross. Christ has already done that anyway.
I haven’t written much during this Lenten season. In fact, I had to go all the way back to Ash Wednesday to find something to which to connect these thoughts. I was concerned then about what I perceived to be an increasing amount of conflict in several of our congregations. That conflict hasn’t subsided. As a matter of fact, in at least one congregation it has intensified.
As we enter this Holy Week, I think about the people there and wonder how they heard this reading on Palm Sunday. Had I been there today, I would have said the following words to them. I write it here, however, with the hope that not only they, but any of you who find yourself in disagreement may attain some guidance. As we prepare to again celebrate the festival of Easter, think about how you can restore or build relationships with each other by humbly serving, looking to the needs of others, putting others first and yourself last. In your relationships with one another, let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus.