Sunday, January 6, 2008

Our Self Giving Servant Father

This morning Pastor Shannon shared an incredibly powerful insight about God's heart and character on this very special Epiphany Sunday. On this first Communion Sunday of 2008, we gained a deeper understanding of the profound way that Jesus manifest Himself to the world.

The service began with announcement. Please note that in two weeks (January 20) there will be a special fund raising meal featuring the delightfully delicious cuisine of chef Don Walters, a former chef on the Great Lakes. Additional information to be posted on this blogsite.

Today's Scripture readings:
Isaiah 60:1-6
Ephesians 3:1-12

Today's sermon was an exposition of the wonderful passage from Philippians 2:5-11 with the theme, "Our Self Giving Servant Father."

There are many scholars who understand this passage as a New Testament hymn. There are several places in Scripture where it appears that the writer is sharing a hymn or has broken into song.

Here is the passage, which begins, "Have this mind... " and ends, "to the glory of God the Father."

Philippians 2:5-11 (NIV)
5 Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:
6Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
7 but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.
8 And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death— even death on a cross!
9 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name,
10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

The passage seems to be written in three stanzas. In the first portion the writer sings of the Pre-Earthly Jesus. The second stanza sings of Jesus' entrance into earth and humanity is declared. In the last stanza, we hear of Jesus in His Post-Earth experience.

All of this emerges from a decision. "He did not consider equality with God a thing to be grasped." The magnitude of this decision is incredible.

Pastor Shannon then highlighted some key words throughout this passage. His aim was to give us glimpses into the multi-layered implications of this beautiful section of Scripture.

In verse six Paul writes that Jesus was "in the form of God" in his pre-earthly state. The actual Greek word here indicates that Jesus possessed inwardly and displayed outwardly the image of God. Despite His God nature, He did not consider equality with God a thing to be grasped and "emptied Himself" taking the form of a servant or slave. In other words, He ruled all yet chose to be as one who had not rights.

Another word Pastor Brad highlighted was this statement about being born in human likeness. The actual word conveys something different from just being a clone of a human. He was human, yet in a unique way remained God. The word conveys the idea that He who was God became a man, but not merely man. In Jesus we see Godhood and humanhood.

The phrase regarding His humbling Himself is likewise pointed. He became obedient unto death. This contrasts sharply with Adam's disobedience.

The next phrase, "even death on a cross" is interpreted this way by J.B. Phillips: "and the death He died was the death of a common criminal." It is a degrading death.

Then in verse nine Paul declares that Jesus has been so elevated that He is given the name above every other name. What name is this? A name so sacred that reverent Jews would not even dare to let it cross their lips. Yahweh. Lord.

So it is that we exhorted, "Let this same mind be in you..." or this same attitude. Jesus Himself did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, to be seized upon. What a contrast with the world where those in power exploit every advantage. Jesus did not consider equality with God something to be exploited.

Another powerful insight from this passage: He considered us worthy of this sacrifice.

Jesus, the Son of God, recognized beforehand that being equal with God means being a servant, accepting powerlessness and dying the death of a common criminal.

When Jesus became a man, He did not change who He was. Rather, he chose to reveal what God is like. In effect, He was saying by His life from cradle to cross, "This is the best was to express what it means to be God." A cradle, a towel, a cross....

If being God is this, can being human be anything less?

We are most what we're meant to be when we empty ourselves and take the form of a servant. This is who we are created to be.

"Have this mind in you, which was also in Christ Jesus..." (ASV)

This is the Gospel of the Lord.

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