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Embracing the Mind of Christ

Palm Sunday - April 2, 2023

Rev Sarah Colvin

And here we are, once again at Golgotha, once again at the cross.

Holy Week used to be a bigger deal than it is now. In some countries, you are still allowed to have an excused absence from work on Maundy Thursday and Good Friday in order to attend church, but not so much here.

“Sarah, it is Palm Sunday, we are barely in Holy Week.” And you are right. But over the course of time, the church, in a very general sense, realized that not everyone was going to make the services of Holy Week. Thus, Palm Sunday became like its own mini-Holy Week, just jam-packed. The thought was that putting the Passion Gospel on Palm Sunday was the only way that people would otherwise hear this important Gospel if they didn’t come to church on Good Friday. Of course, there are exceptions; Orthodox Christians still only have the liturgy of the palms for Palm Sunday, without the Passion Narrative. Nowadays we rotate which Passion Gospel you hear on Palm Sunday; the Gospel of John’s version of the passion is always read on Good Friday.

The liturgy of the palms brings out the glory laud and honor to Christ Jesus. The effect is that the emotional arc of the readings is from a giant high to a giant plummet. Jesus’ cry at his death in Matthew’s version, “Eli Eli, lama sabachthani?”----“ My God, My God, why have you deserted me?”—the first line from psalm 22 shows the nadir. And yet, and yet, along with Jesus’ cry, we also hear this:

Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus.

Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus.

Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus.

Each and everyone of us is made in the image of God. Our shared humanity includes a birthday that we have celebrated over the years, relationships with friends and loved ones, and also our deaths. Our lives are interwoven with those whose paths we cross. Many of us have witnessed and grieved many who have died before us, and we know that we too will die. Hopefully not with the same feeling of dereliction that Jesus suffered.

Yet, well before our epitaphs are writ large, we are told to let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus. This passage is from what is called the Christ hymn of Philippians. Verses 6-11 are considered the hymn portion and they attest to who we think Christ is, and therefore why Christ is revered by Christians, and it forms the basis of our early creeds and even our later ones.

Having the same mind be in us that was in Christ Jesus is what makes the whole Holy Week and Easter season different than just mourning that a beloved religious leader was killed. (Back to why we think Christ mattered). As much as death by crucifixion is horrid, over time there has come a realization that it is not necessarily what Romans and Pharisees did to Jesus, but it is our own being complicit with systems of oppression, of favoritism, of marginalizing the other that matter. Even for this congregation that has a history of deeply caring about racial inequities and reconciliation, what I am talking about goes beyond skin color and race relations in the United States. We are all part of the imago dei, the image of God. This has to do with how we treat the other, no matter who we are.

I found a great meditative poem by Steve Garnaas-Holmes to be helpful:


By a perversion of justice he was taken away.

—Isaiah 53.8

God did not send Jesus to die.

But I confess that in a musty place in my heart

the lie that Jesus was meant to die suits me fine.

Oh, I abhor the theology: God does not need more gore.

But in my heart I confess

I'm comfortable with others suffering for my sake.

I rail against the idea that God needs a blood payment,

that God planned a tragedy—

a payoff instead of true forgiveness—

and I say with my lips the cross is a lynching,

a Nazi gas chamber, another police shooting.

But secretly, I confess, I like my place of ease and safety.

I'm addicted to my privilege.

I let others suffer instead of me.

Even as I protest I participate.

I know God demands otherwise.

But I live as if God meant for me to survive

at the cost of others' lives.

I confess: I am saved from the virus of evil;

I also carry the virus.

I stand at the foot of the cross with tears in my eyes

and a hammer in my hand.

May I die, forgiven, and be raised, changed.”

We all participate. Even if it is as simple as wearing an item of clothing made in say Bangladesh, by nearly enslaved people in utter poverty. (Then again if we don’t purchase said clothing, does that person starve because of lack of means?) We have vicious webs of interconnection, they are complicated and ambiguous, and we all participate. There are no easy answers, but there are some better answers.

What does it mean to have the same mind be in us that was in Christ Jesus? The verses that precede say, “If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 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. Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus.”

Paul then continues with the Christ hymn. Of course, there is no expectation that we will fulfill the verses that constitute the hymn, but we are to set our sights towards love, compassion, sympathy. As made in the image of God, and possessing goodness, our actions are not to be driven by selfish ambition and conceit. We are to look towards the interests of others and not our own.

These are our marching orders as it were. There are few who achieve this, but this is our aim as Christians. Our aspiration shapes our behavior, even if we don’t always get there. These actions are the manifestations of God’s goodness. When we are remembered, let it be said of each of us that we love, we are compassionate and sympathetic and always look towards the interests of others.

This is the mind of the Christ who in his own forsakenness, knew our forsakenness. He took flesh and knew the fear, the anxiety, the complexity, the travail that comes with being human. We are not alone. We are never alone.

Jesus’s world was topsy turvy as well, as all centuries have been. There is nothing sacrosanct about our way of life that makes it God given. And there is nothing about our life now that means that God is not with us. God has not deserted us, never has, never will. God’s kingdom comes on earth by God’s actions, leading us to Jesus’ mind in the way of compassion, love, and sympathy.

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