So Saturday I pasted, and then posted, a rough, unfinished draft of a reflection on Philippians 2: 1-11, and not the final draft I’m re-posting below.
This final version ain’t all that different from the one you might have read yesterday, faithful “Noon Wine” reader, except for being–mercifully, perhaps–about half as long.
As David Letterman would say, “I hate when dat happens!”
That said, I also want to say thanks for all the feedback and response to the series on the poor and poverty here and at Facebook and in private responses via email, which are always welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org. And welcome, by the way, to a lot of new subscribers thanks to a lot of sharing of the series by friends and readers on Facebook.
My calling to ordained ministry was always largely a call to be in ministry with the poor. They teach me a lot, and they have a lot to teach us all about God and all things God if we’ll but open our eyes and see them, open our ears and listen to them, and open our hearts in generosity of spirit to them.
This I believe.
(This is the first in a series of “Noon Wine” reflections on spiritual poverty and “the poverty of God” as a followup to the material poverty addressed in a recent series.)
SCRIPTURE: Philippians 2: 1-11
KEY VERSE: (5-8) “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.” (My italics for emphasis.)
It’s said that religion is for those who fear hell and spirituality is for those who’ve been there.
The people that Jesus reached out to so radically in his wildly spiritual rebellion were people living in the utter hell of life on earth.
It’s hard for most of us–certainly those of us blessed and privileged to live in a relatively clean and high-tech world of comfort and convenience and endless entertainment–to wrap our heads around the world that Jesus lived in.
It was a hell of no hospitals or cops or 911 emergency responders, no neighborhoods with green lawns and malls complete with pet shops for grooming and pampering pets, no nice restaurants and endless forms of amusement, no homeless shelters and soup kitchens, and certainly no religious leaders with a trace of compassion, empathy or tolerance in their heartless souls.
Jesus–even though he was in the form of God–took the form of a humble servant. Jesus, Paul reminds us, emptied himself of any power, privilege, riches and possessions that could have been his for the taking.
Having already refused to sell his soul to the devil and partner with him in cosmic crime, Jesus could have chosen to live the high and mighty life by going along to get along with the Pharisees and all the other chummy, self-satisfied religious leaders.
Instead he challenged them at every turn.
Talk about creating “class division.” He was plenty guilty of that offense.
In emptying himself of all those human drives and attachments, he emptied himself of all the usual “stuff” that we attach ourselves to in order for him to make room for the fullness of God’s love. It was in this emptiness that divine power drove him to love others in ways beyond our understanding.
That’s how this Christian love thing works, or is supposed to work. The Christian humbles himself, becomes as a servant, a giver rather than an always needy taker suffering from a needy poverty of the soul.
A peaceful and healthy love of one’s self, first, coupled with a healthy love of others, begins from some degree of spiritual poverty, of being stripped down and empty enough for God to dwell within.
But in every daily step of our endless spiritual journey, we do have to strip down and surrender our human needs for an obedience, first and foremost, to God, in imitation of Jesus, to the extent that the spotless lamb of God can be imitated.