Christ emptied himself, taking the form of a slave" (AP).
I often express dismay that the Bible does not include musical notation for its many hymns and songs. My imagination wants to hear the early church sing the kenosis hymn of Philippians 2. In 1870 Caroline Neal based the hymn known as “At the Name of Jesus” (UMH, no. 168) on this text. Today would our musical version of the Philippians text feel more up-tempo, or would it offer opportunity for gentle reflection? Would it feel more like a dirge or a march? The answer probably depends on which portion of the hymn we would emphasize. Do we stress the emptying that we meet in Christ or the sense of future triumph?
We know today's text as the hymn of kenosis, based on the use of the verb form translated as “emptied” in verse 7. Paul invites his audience to become like Christ who did not clutch equality with God but emptied himself to become a servant and a slave. Here we see the development of the upside-down plot as it moves closer toward its surprise ending.
How do we let the same mind that was in Christ be in us? Just as Paul and the Gospel writers knew the end of the story that they wrote and preached, so we have a sense of the end of our story. We are moving toward Christ. A Statement of Faith of the United Church of Canada reminds us: “In life, in death, in life beyond death, God is with us” (UMH, no. 883). We also try to shed the protective nature of ego, remembering the vastness of the creation and the intimate nature of God’s love for each one within the creation. We remember that our mission is large but we are small. We sit in silence and open ourselves to God.
What do you need to empty from your life? What gets in your way when you seek to serve? How will you let it go?
To Jesus Christ, all power and love, majesty and glory in exaltation forever. Amen.
This week’s readings prepare us for Palm Sunday, a joyous event. Jesus rides into Jerusalem on a donkey, a symbol of kingship in ancient Israel. The people greet him with loud acclamations. He is coming in the name of the Lord! Standing along the road leading into Jerusalem, how could anyone imagine what would happen that following week? Wasn’t Jesus finally going to manifest the fullness of God’s power, take his place on the throne of David, and overthrow the Romans? No, because that was not his mission. He came not to build an earthly kingdom but to lay aside his rights. He came to be glorified by being humiliated . . . for us. He came to suffer and die . . . for us.
Read Isaiah 50:4-9a. How does your faith community reflect the servant in this reading?
Read Psalm 118:1-2, 19-29. How are you rejoicing in this day that the Lord has made? How are you blessing “the one who comes in the name of the Lord”?
Read Philippians 2:5-11. How does this hymn of the early Christian community speak to you as you prepare for Holy Week?
Read Mark 11:1-11, 15-18. Spend some time imagining the scene of Jesus entering Jerusalem as described in the reading. Where are you in the scene? What do you see? What do you hear around you? What do you feel as you watch this event?
Respond by posting a prayer.
This season, Whitney R. Simpson has given us the gift we must open: a clear, accessible invitation to connect with the divine spark that is within us. This is the best present: being present for Jesus’ birth, God made human.”
Learn more about our newest Advent resource, Fully Human, Fully Divine here.