In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Ah, the things one reads on Facebook! More specifically, oy weh, the things one reads on Facebook in the ELCA Clergy group! Sad to say, much of what’s posted there is about church-people behaving badly. Just this week I read about a congregation that still conducts worship in Finnish and in English and how the two worshipping groups couldn’t agree over how to share the kitchen and fellowship hall for social events. They now – in them same building – have two kitchens and two fellowship halls. I read of another congregation that has been experiencing its fair share of conflict over what color to paint the bathroom and how to hang toilet paper – the loose end over the roll or under the roll. And while we’re in the bathroom there is the pastor who writes about her congregation spending years fighting over the width of the bathroom stalls.
The carpet colors in the various rooms of the church seems to be an almost universal source of division among Christians even after all these years. One of my colleagues writes that the congregation he serves has finally has gotten through the bad behavior surrounding the hues of the carpet in the fellowship hall. The heated arguments now are about whether to allow red Kool-Aid to be served in the fellowship hall. Can’t stain the new carpet, you know. It’s unclear, however, whether purple or orange Kool-Aid play as major a part in this congregation’s struggles as does red Kool-Aid. Speaking of what’s served in fellowship halls, “Pastor Julie” despairs over the nastiness in her congregation toward the generous people who make treats for the after-service coffee hour. Seems these good hosts are going too “all out” and that other people might think they can be fed for free.
Let’s move now from bathrooms and fellowship halls and into the narthex. At one parish there is an ongoing battle concerning the shopping cart in the narthex. The “Church in the World Committee” puts a shopping cart near the entryway for people to drop off groceries for the local food pantry. The “Arts in Ministry” folks move the cart out of the narthex and into a hallway around the corner because “it’s ugly.” The “Church in the World” folks move it back into the narthex, arguing that hunger itself is ugly and the cart serves to remind people of that so that they remember to bring donations for the hungry poor in their neighborhood. “Arts in Ministry” moves the cart back out saying, “Hunger is ugly, but the narthex is meant to be inviting and to convey welcome, and an ugly shopping cart pilfered from the local grocery store conveys a message about us not caring about our facility and about our not being law-abiding citizens.” And back and forth the shopping cart goes. We here in this congregation, of course, engage in no such bad behavior.
You, says St. Paul to all of us, you do have the mind of Christ.
St. Paul writes “Have the same mind in you that IS yours 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.” You, says St. Paul to all of us, you do have the mind of Christ – who on the night before his death took off his outer garments and taking the role of a female slave washed the feet of all his disciples – disciples who would betray, abandon, and deny him before the night was through. Jesus put forth no arguments about who was worthy of being served in this way. Jesus put forth no arguments about germs or that he was a free-born person and then ought not to have to function as a slave – and not just any slave, but a female slave – the washing of feet being such a degrading job that only slave women should be forced to do such a task. No, though in the form of God, Jesus emptied himself of every privilege and obeyed – that is listened to – the very mind of God – of the God who wills to be known as an promiscuous and extravagently loving God, a God who wills to be among the last, the least, and the lost, who wills to love the unlovely and the unlovable – who wills to love even church people who behave in unlovely and unlovable ways. Yes, says St. Paul – this is who you are – the mind of this Christ – it is yours. A free gift and a sure gift – as sure as when God said, “let there be light (snap) and there was light.”
Ours IS the mind of Christ therefore we do not complain about the scuffed paint, the dented walls, and the plugged toilets that occur when we host 800 to a thousand or more hungry people here each Monday. Ours IS the mind of Christ therefore we do not threaten to reduce or withhold our giving because “we don’t like the way things are going here” or we don’t like who’s on the Congregation Council or we don’t like some of the policies or Social Statements of the ELCA. Ours IS the mind of Christ and so we do not glare when children make noise in worship for Christ welcomed children into his arms, this He does over the complaints of the disciples and other supposed “adults.” Ours IS the mind of Christ and so we will welcome the poor, the hungry, the least, the last, the lost, and the perennially excluded. Ours IS the mind of Christ so we give generously of our time and treasure; Ours is the mind of Christ and so as a congregation we actively participate in the ecumenical ministries of Street Reach and Metro CareRing. Ours IS the mind of Christ and so we as a congregation give away at least a tenth of our income to the work of the larger church. Ours is the mind of Christ and so we do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit but in humility regard other as better than ourselves. Ours is the mind of Christ so we look not to our own interests but to the interests of others, finding transcendence in serving the neighbor within reach in any given circumstance. St. Paul proclaims that are of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind of Christ.
And to the extent that we manifest the One Mind that IS ours 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 despised female slave, who humbled himself and become obedient to the point of death – even death on a cross – to the extent that we manifest that One mind, we will not boast, but being of this One Mind, we will exalt the One whom God has highly exalted, whose name is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Yes, dear people, God IS at work in you!
And again in the Liturgy of the Eucharist, let us present ourselves to God and receive the true body and blood of the Lord, Jesus Christ, so that we shall indeed have the same mind among us, the very mind of Christ.
In His most exalted Name. Amen.