“Serving with Humility”

May 21st, 2017

Philippians 2:1-8, 12 & 13

Sermon by Pastor Tim Woodard

 

Scripture:

“Hear now the words from Paul’s letter to the church in Philippi, written while he was in prison: Philippians, chapter one verses, one thru eight, and verses twelve thru thirteen.  May God open our ears and our minds, ensuring that we each hear the deep meaning of this ancient text.” 

Philippians 2:1-8, 12 & 13,

2 If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, 2 make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.  3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves.  4 Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others.  5 Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, 7 but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness.  And being found in human form, 8 he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death – even death on a cross.
12 Therefore, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed me, not only in my presence, but much more now in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; 13 for it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

“May our hearts be opened to our message of humility this morning.”

Sermon:

This past week I had the opportunity to buy a nice ‘stainless steel’ gas grill for our home.  Lois and I have wanted one since the day we moved in just after Thanksgiving.  So, it was with great satisfaction when I was able to buy one, and set it up on the small extension to our deck I constructed with paver stones.  Of course, we celebrated with a couple steaks which I cooked on the new grill that evening.  It was with joy and a sense of accomplishment when I served the steaks.  They were good too!  Lois enjoyed them also, as did our little poodle Jamie.  Of course, I ought not take all the credit, although for a moment I did.  But, without our friend Mike, with his pick-up truck and bulging biceps, the grill would still be at Home Depot and the masonry stones would still be stacked there as well!  You see, in all humility, I needed his help in both the choosing, the delivery, and the installing to get the job done.

We could make a parallel contrast with things which we, as a community, are called upon to accomplish here at our church.  As we serve God through our activities, our time, our talents and our financial support of this ministry, how we do so, is as important as the things we essentially accomplish!  The truth is: service is all about attitude!  If I take all the credit for getting the gas grill at my home, then I have missed the point of our scripture lesson this morning.  If we, if you and I miss this same point, as we scurry around and do the work of this church, we will not have served with the correct attitude; and if we are totally lacking in humility as we do so, what we accomplish shall be hollow in its depth.

Hopefully, I now have your attention as we begin to digest the depth, and the breadth of meaning in our scripture text.  Pride, in the context we are discussing it this morning, is a way of lifting oneself up in response to one’s self congratulating praise for a job well done!  Our passage today, on the other hand, is a way of balancing our pride and ego with the attitude of humility portrayed for us in the life of Jesus.  Paul’s words speak to our finding balance and his writing speak of how we might find “a grounded argument against pride”. /From the Geneva Notes/

Let us take a deeper look at how this scripture was written, and perhaps we will get some insights into what the Apostle Paul was trying to put across, to those of us who have now heard what he wrote.  The Apostle Paul’s letter to the church in Philippi, written while he was in prison, was addressed to this small community of Christians.  “Philippi ‘is’ a city of Macedonia, a stop on one of the main roads between East and West in the Roman Empire.” /NRSV page 279 NT/ It was a strategic place for Paul to have planted the seeds of Christianity, during his trip into the region, before he was put into prison.  From ‘prison’ is a key thing for us to reflect on.  What kind of an attitude has Paul taken as this letter is written?  Is his writing filled with pride and ego?  No, Paul, humbled by his incarceration uses this writing to put forth a message of humility, as he speaks of Jesus and the life he lived.  With clear intent and purpose the Apostle Paul, “He points to Christ as the example of humility and consecration to the good of others.” /B.W. Johnson/

 

We may want to ask ourselves a question at this point in our discussion, as we need to balance our conversation with at least one other major point which Paul puts across.  How do we serve?  Without question, there are many ways to serve.  As there is also many forms of service.  Most of us have gone out to a restaurant to get a meal.  We go because we want to enjoy a meal without cooking and we go because we are hungry.  In so doing we are seeking a certain level of service.  When the waitress comes to ask us for our order, is she working to sell us on the cook’s special creation of the day, more than she is absorbed in finding out what we are interested in having for lunch, based on our needs and desires?  Most of us are looking for a friendly, but also an efficient server who will help us accomplish our goals in a polite and timely manner.  Don’t you just hate it, when after waiting too long, your meal shows up cold?  Most of us will hold the quality of our experience over the waiter or waitresses head as we calculate what tip we shall leave; and usually this is strongly influenced on the over-all attitude the one serving us takes.

Let us honestly look at ourselves as we ponder these questions.

Do we pride ourselves for tasks accomplished?  Or do we seek out a balanced attitude as we reflect on things which are accomplished each day?  It would be helpful, at this point, if we were to reflect on how Jesus interacted with the setting he found himself in.  How did Jesus handle life as he lived in the realm of humanity?  “How would you describe the “mind of Christ?”  In contrast, “what does it look like for us to have it together?”  Are we finding a balance as we pride ourselves with how we serve others, with how God is involved in helping us accomplish even the smallest of daily tasks, each day?  Are we willing to humble ourselves, just a bit, to give others some credit for their assist in our endeavors?  /Janet H. Hunt/ We need to re-examine our scripture as we seek out these answers.  Let us take a closer look at the thoughts which Paul has placed in front of us today.

“Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness.  And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death – even death on a cross.” /Philippians 2:5-8/ “It would be difficult to find a more influential passage in all of Scripture than today’s epistle reading from Philippians.” /Susan Eastman/ We know that the man, Jesus, was very human, and yes, we know he was also very divine… having both the essence of humanity and that of divinity.  Yet, his humanness was very apparent in the retelling of his interactions with others in the gospel accounts.  His emotions ran the full range… from anger to sadness and everything in-between just like you and me.  However, he grew stronger and more God like as he neared his destiny and his devotion and obedience to God grew stronger and stronger, as did his attitude of humility.  When we look – seeking to know Jesus – we must see that his mind as-well-as his spirit was focused to being obedient to his ‘calling’ to be the Messiah, the Holy One, the One sent to redeem humankind.  His mind was clearly centered around that of God.

It was also apparent that Jesus had an attitude of humility which continued to mature and blossom, as his road to the cross became more and more clear.  “How can we develop the same attitude that Christ had?” /Rev. Bryan Findlayson/ As we seek to follow Christ we must be gentle with ourselves as the roadway is long and filled with the “all too human” potholes of our destiny.  There are different ways of emptying oneself of the ‘old’ while taking on new attitudes and practices.  We can acquaint ourselves with the habit of prayer and we can seek to mimic and mirror these practices in our own personal lives.  Jesus was often patient with our human weaknesses, while also being intolerant of acts of injustice and oppression of others.  Even now, we need to minister unto ourselves, as Jesus comforted and cared for others around him.  Ultimately, we must attend to one another, as we grow and mature as “Christ-like” disciples.  By filling ourselves with practices and rituals that Jesus taught we will begin to empty ourselves of some of our human faults.  This takes time and effort, which is our modern-day challenge.

Living in the Twenty-First Century, we have found that we suffer from an age-old dilemma.  Sadly, our world problems, although they are unique to our time, the root causes are not.  “Power has been the perennial problem in human history.  The reality of power is complex; and its use and misuse in all human, social and political relations and interactions has been a question of utmost importance for all peoples.” /Kim Yong-Bock/ Power, leads to the problem of ego and pride.  If we are not diligent these can become overfed and disproportionate to our abilities to serve people and usually causes us to set God aside, as we take credit, at every level of our lives, for things which were and are, out of our control.  There is much that we need to give credit to others for, likewise, we need to give thanks to God for those around us.

There are many forms of humility.  On the other hand, some of us have over-functioning egos and our sense of pride has become swollen to the point of boastfulness and even arrogance.  Yes, there are those whom may need to deflate their puffed-up egos, while putting their pride on the back seat.  For those of us like this we need to ‘let the air out’ of ourselves and become ‘right sized’ as we need to ‘let go’ of our self-importance and see more clearly, the value of those around us.  And with a sense of gratitude in our hearts, look for how God’s compassion, love and grace have played a part in who we are and whom we yet might become.  Others of us may find ourselves deflated and feeling incapable of any meaningful levels of service to others, especial when it comes to becoming a productive disciple of Christ.  I had to see how humility meant, for me, to more fully utilize my skills which ‘opened up’ a pathway thereby leading me into my current role in ministry.  If you are like this… now is the time to step forward and ask for guidance from others.  You very well may become, yet another gem in our midst, with talents not yet discovered!

As we take seriously the writings of Paul, we must work toward being more Christ-Centered, taking on an attitude of humility that encompasses all of which Christ offered to others.  As we look to follow the pathway of Jesus, we need to seek out the ultimate goals of humility as we strive to serve God, through our service and devotion to our church and the people of God.  Listen again to the words of Paul: “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.” /Philippians 2:1-4/ All praise be to God.

Amen.

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