April 5, 2020 / Palm Sunday / Richard Holmer
Processional Gospel Matthew 21:1-11 / 1st Reading Isaiah 50:4-9a /
2nd Reading Philippians 2:5-11/ Gospel Matthew 26:14-27:66 The Passion According to St. Matthew
The Mind of Christ
The Passion narrative in Matthew’s gospel tells the story of Jesus’ final, fateful hours with all its shock and power, its sorrow and wonder. The story clearly speaks for itself. Scene by compelling scene, Matthew paints the picture of Christ’s path from the Last Supper to the cross. No matter how many times we have heard it, the story leaves us with much to ponder. Which is why, usually, there is no sermon on this Sunday. Usually we provide a time of extended silence to absorb and meditate on the story we have heard. However, these are not usual times. We are living through a strange and challenging period.
Matthew relates how at the moment Jesus died, the earth was shaken and rocks were split. The foundations of the world shuddered and shook at that cataclysmic event. These days we feel our world shaken and disturbed. We all are being shaken from our normal routines. We are thrown off balance by uncertainty, by an invisible, yet ominous threat. I feel it, and I’m sure you do too! The Church of Jesus Christ does have a long history. God’s people have endured wars and plagues and schisms and persecutions. This world has always been a dangerous place. Yet by grace the Church has persevered and survived. And we will survive this pandemic.
In this unsettled and uncertain time, the question arises: How then shall we live? One response to danger and uncertainty is to go into survival mode. Self-preservation is a powerful instinct, which can lead us to withdraw and turn inward. Some buy guns – others hoard toilet paper. Other persons are viewed by some as a threat.
In our reading from Philippians, Paul reminds us of a better way: “Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus. In Jesus God enters into our world on the bottom rung of the social ladder – “taking the form of a slave.” Jesus did not cling to divine status and privilege, choosing instead to humble himself, to pour himself out for the sake of humankind, for you and me. In Jesus we witness the compassionate love of God in action: Love doesn’t look down from a distance, love lives alongside. Love doesn’t hesitate to get its hands dirty. Love accepts humble duties. Love makes sacrifices. Love looks to the interests of others. This is what you and I are meant to be like in these anxious days.
We are called to be like Jesus. “Let this same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus.” Can you imagine that: living with the mind of Christ – approaching life with his attitude? What would that look like? We can love and care for ourselves, without worrying about ourselves. Trusting God to preserve us, we can focus our energy on loving and serving others. Last week I got an email from one of our members. She expressed her gratitude for our video worship services and shared how she was getting along these days. She finds great reward in helping others through her job. In a line that really speaks to me she said: “Service overcomes fear.” That’s a powerful truth! A picture of living with the mind of Christ.
We can accept humble duties. For now that might include shopping for a neighbor, sewing face masks, making phone calls. In a few weeks it may mean mowing someone’s lawn.
We can make sacrifices. We can share resources with those who are in need: persons out of work, our friends in North Chicago and Waukegan.
Keeping safe social distance doesn’t need to keep us from caring for our neighbor. The mind of Christ is always looking to the interests of others.
+ + + +
To know Jesus is to know the true nature of our God. In Christ, “God humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” There is no greater love than that. God’s love in Christ is good news for us – the best news. God’s love in Christ is also God’s call to us to go and do likewise, to live each day with the compassionate mind of Christ.
What makes this week HOLY is the surpassing love of God – brought to us now and forever in the person of Jesus Christ.
You and I share God’s holiness when we serve as humble and willing instruments of God’s love.
Thanks be to God.