Week of May 1: The Christ Hymn: A call to be like-minded
By DOREEN SMALLS
Lesson scripture: Philippians 2:1-11
Paul founded the church in Philippi. The believers in Philippi were very dear to Paul; they defended and supported him. While imprisoned in Rome, Paul heard of the church’s dissents and altercations. He wrote them a letter to remind them they were a community of faith and they were to model their lives after Christ.
Take my mind, transform it
The strife and conflict among believers were beginning to cause a separation in the church. Paul encouraged believers to love one another and to strive for unity. He urged them to remember the gifts like love and fellowship they had received from Christ. If they were to concentrate on those things, they could resolve their differences. So instead of opposing one another, he recommended they be of the “same mind.”
He stated, “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 mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind” (Philippians 2:2).
The Greek word for mind is phroneo. Its meaning encompasses more than a person’s intellect. It includes an individual’s attitude and perspective. Having the same mind does not mean we all agree on every single detail but it signifies that we have a common view and perception. The commonality for believers should be to imitate the life of Christ.
Paul’s words are vital to the church today just as they were to the church in Philippi. Often times we forget that the church does not belong to a group of individuals; the church belongs to Christ. Instead of trying to enforce selfish ideas on each other, we should try to exhibit or imitate the love of Christ toward each other. What are the dissentions in your church? What can you do to promote unity?
The Christ hymn
Philippians 2:5-11 is believed by many to have been an ancient hymn in the church. It is not certain if Paul used this text from a preexisting source. Some scholars surmise that it may have been a song that the Philippians used in their liturgy. Today this pericope is known as the “Christ hymn.”
John Calvin is credited with saying, “the Nicene Creed was meant to be sung rather than spoken.” Our faith has often been framed in creeds and doctrinal statements. But songs are also another means in which we convey our faith. Charles Wesley penned more than 6,000 hymns during his life that express our faith and beliefs of the church. Miriam, Moses’ sister, composed a song of victory to God in celebration (Exodus 15:1 -21). Jesus and the disciples sang hymns (Matthew 26:30). Several church choirs have performed Christmas and Easter cantatas as way of sharing the Good News. What we sing in church serves as a primer for what we hold to be true.
Kevin Baker, pastor of Reconciliation United Methodist Church, cites, “Singing the faith, committing poetry to memory, chanting lines and lyrics of praise and thanksgiving in community – all this has played a central role in learning and transmitting the faith that enables us to “be of the same mind … that was in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:5).
What hymns has been a significant part of your spiritual formation?
It’s hard to be humble
At a reception honoring musician Sir Robert Mayer on his 100th birthday, elderly British socialite Lady Diana Cooper fell into conversation with a friendly woman who seemed to know her well. Lady Diana's failing eyesight prevented her from recognizing her fellow guest, until she peered more closely at the magnificent diamonds and realized she was talking to Queen Elizabeth! Overcome with embarrassment, Lady Diana curtsied and stammered, “Ma'am, oh, ma'am, I'm sorry ma'am. I didn't recognize you without your crown!”
“It was so much Sir Robert's evening,” the queen replied, “that I decided to leave it behind.” Queen Elizabeth demonstrated humility by recognizing that the honor belonged to someone else that night.
Paul recommended that the Christians in Philippi seek humility rather than selfishness. He cited, “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: 3-4). Being humble involves having a true view of oneself. It does not mean that we should look down on ourselves or discount our value or self worth. We are all loved by God and are special to God. We are to lay aside selfishness and treat others with respect and common courtesy.
Christ gave us the perfect example of humility. He yielded his equality to God to take on the form of a slave. Jesus “humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death – even on the cross” (Philippians 2:8).
What hinders you from being humble?
Rev. Doreen Smalls is an associate director at the Office of Connectional Ministries and she serves as Conference Secretary to Global Ministries. If you have any comments or questions, you may contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.