Posted on Thu, Oct 6, 2011
Sermon for September 24, 2011
Some Things Old; Some Things New
Rev. Dr. Jim Merritt
September 25, 2011
I love the words of Positive psychologist Robert Holden which we just heard a few minutes ago. They are powerful and have deep meaning for people like us today.
I want to suggest for all of us gathered here a mixture of two ways of thinking. I suggest we hold onto, cling to, never let go of the positive history of our lives. I suggest we hold on to the goodness that God has demonstrated in God’s history with humankind. In addition to that, I suggest that we open up our hearts and our minds to new ways of thinking, to the ongoing revelation of the word of God as revealed by scholars, saints and sages of this present moment. Finally, I suggest that we hold on to the messages that God places within our own hearts and spirits. I suggest that we hold on to Some Things Old and Some Things New. Would you pray with me? Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on us this morning. Melt us, mold us, fill me, use us! Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on us, and make the words of my mouth and the meditations of all of our hearts pleasing and acceptable to you. AMEN.
Philippians 2.1-2, 5 says this, “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. Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus.” That for us is something old that would, in its implementation, represent a new way of life for most in our world. It’s a both/and, it’s something old and it can me something new.
There is a nice connection between the Philippians passage and the reading from Holden. You will remember Holden is the inventor of the DIP – the Dysfunctionally Independent Person we discussed a few weeks ago. “Putting on the mind of Christ” is about letting go of old beliefs that cause pain and fear and opening to new beliefs that are more joyous and liberating. Some of you will remember the ways we have discussed erasing the old tapes filled with negative information; negative thoughts, negative accusations and the like. Those tapes are part of the old that we need to get rid of, and my sisters and brothers, I want to remind you this morning that the best way for us to clean out the trash in our lives is to bring it right here to the altar of God and lay it down. Let God have it, let God deal with it, and most important, let God keep it. Once we turn these over to God and resist the urge to pick them back up and we experience freedom, we become fully convinced that the NEW experience is freedom. We believe and live on God’s promise that when we are free in Jesus, we are FREE INDEED! Bring your burdens to the altar and leave them there!
· I ran across a brilliant exegesis of the second half of the Philippians passage—the ancient ‘emptying hymn’ of the early church—by David E. Fredrickson a New Testament professor at St. Paul Lutheran Seminary. He claims that the Greeks thought the gods were beautiful and when the Philippians passage speaks of Jesus not regarding equality with God something to be exploited, that the Greek word used there is rare and means ‘snatching’ an action to describe an erotic abduction of a human by a god. Fredrickson also points out that Jesus ‘taking the form of a slave’ has echoes of “the slavery of love” alluded to in Greek poetry in which the lover is completely dedicated to the beloved. Finally he claims that the Greek word used for ‘emptying’ in this passage literally means human bodily liquefaction which is a poetic way to describe longing for divine union. Hear that my sisters and brothers, it’s something new that you can take with you. Jesus is in love with you. God, in this image becomes like a slave to the love of you. Through God’s son, Jesus, God empties God’s self into us so that we become one with God. When we become of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind that was and still is in Christ Jesus, we have become something new based on the experiences and the promises of something old; the unquestionable love of God demonstrated for us through the Son of God, the Son of Humanity, Our savior and our friend Jesus, the Christ.
The Matthew passage lifts up examples of the ways we give up the ‘authority’ of our true self—by worrying about what others will think, what others will say, and being afraid to be wrong or weird in the sight of others. I was talking with one of our members earlier this week about our worship here. We agreed that sometimes it feels a bit stiff. I told her and she agreed, “I’m over worrying about what people think about me. Sometimes I’m going to shout “Glory” and sometimes I’m going to shout “Hallelujah” and once in awhile I’m just going to shout my hair down. Why, because I feel it deep inside me. It’s what the people of God have done through the ages. It’s what my ancestors did. It’s something old and for us it might be something new that might take hold and enliven our spirits and our worship. So don’t be surprised when I shout “Glory” and when I shout “Hallelujah,” you might just want to join in with me!
Just one final word study for today: the word ‘repentance’ is not used in this passage but alluded to with the mention of the tax collectors and prostitutes. We often relegate the word to special dramatic circumstances of conversion, but the Benedictines remind us that we are engaged in continual conversion and that repentance—daily, hourly—is a path of liberation from the false self. You see, sometimes when we are forced to hide who we are, we can even rob ourselves of the blessing God has in store for us. When we get caught up in worrying about what other people will think of us we can put a road block in front of the spirit of God that inhibits what God has in store for us. Repentance means turning around. It means we call a “do over” or an “oppsie” or we just start all over again. I love what Thich Nhat Hahn says about moments like those that interfere with our spiritual practice. He says every interference is merely an opportunity to start over.
Do you need some do-overs this morning? Do you need an “oppsie”? Are you in need of a legal place for a U-turn? Here it is. At the altar of God we have the opportunity to take advantage of some old things; the 100% steadfast promises of God. We also have the opportunity to take on some new things. We can live into the calling God places on all of our lives. We can walk in forgiveness and freedom. We can call for “do-overs” or “re-do’s” and we can make u-turns anytime we need to. Some things old and some things new; that’s the Jesus way of living. “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. Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus.”
God bless you. AMEN.
©James Edward Merritt, 2011