Hello Church Family, this is Pastor Phil.
Shiloh and I spent some time in Mexico when we were in college to work with a Christian mission team to build an orphanage for handicapped children. We were working with a local pastor and his family. They taught us how to make homemade tortillas on a cast iron press. The food was amazing!
We had chapel every night together. Their sanctuary was a pole building with a tin roof that we slept in afterwards. The pastor and his wife led worship and played for us on his guitar. One night he played a tune and sang in Spanish. It took a moment to realize what he was singing. I actually started humming the tune before I knew what it was. Amazing Grace. We sang in English while they sang in Spanish, and we all sang the same hymn to our same savior bringing us together as the same family. We were worlds apart in terms of language and culture, but we were brought together and made family by someone greater, Jesus our savior.
In our reading today from the book of Philippians, Pastor Paul is writing to his church family in Philippi. At this writing Paul is in prison for preaching the Gospel and he can’t physically be with them. The church family in Philippi has sent money to support Paul and written to him but that was all they could do in that situation. In his letter back to his church family, he writes the words of a common hymn sung at that time, much like Amazing Grace for us today.
Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name,so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:5-11)
Paul shares these words with his Church family to remind them of what has brought them together and continues to keep them together despite differences and distance. The Church in Philippi was primarily Gentile and in Europe while Paul was a Hebrew and from Israel. That alone was difference enough to keep them apart from the very beginning. But it was through the preaching and teaching of Jesus Christ that first brought them together and drew them together to become family. Jesus is the one who holds them together no matter what it is that separated them.
Paul then writes what the result of this unity in Jesus, that makes them family, brings about in their common life together.
So, if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy… (Philippians 2:1)
Paul is stating here what the church family in Philippi already knows be true and has experienced for themselves. Maybe, though they needed a reminder of the goodness that they have in Jesus to refocus their thoughts on the good instead of the bad, on what unites them instead of what separates them. Encouragement that they have been given all things in Jesus and can now face the day and the struggles in their life with courage. Comfort from knowing that their sins are forgiven, and Jesus gives healing in their life. Participation in the very Spirit of the Eternal God through the gift of Baptism. Affection and sympathy for each other knowing that they are forgiven sinners in need of God’s love together with other forgiven sinners in need of God’s love.
Reminded of these blessings Paul then expects certain behaviors to be exhibited from them towards each other in response to the love given to them.
complete my joy by being 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 count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus… (Philippians 2:2-4a)
Look to the interests of your brothers and sisters in Christ first counting them as more important than yourselves and in that way, no one will be in need or go without. Recognize that each of you are on the same team in Jesus, brought together in faith, with the same goal, the preaching and teaching of the Good News of Jesus and sharing in all of the gifts He has given. Be like Jesus in your words and actions and treat each other not only as Jesus would treat them but with the same respect you would treat Jesus with if He was in the flesh with you today. Remembering the words that Jesus said,
“‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’” (Matthew 25:40)
These truths hold true for a church family brought together by Jesus’ love and forgiveness 2,000 years ago in a city in Europe as today in a church family brought together in Monterrey, Mexico and in a church family brought together in North Jackson, OH or wherever our Lord has brought your Church family together at. It is Jesus who has brought us together, holds us together, and keeps us together no matter where you and I live. It is in response to Jesus’ love that we live like Jesus and treat each other as Jesus has treated us and treat each other as we would treat Jesus in the flesh.