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. 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. Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name
that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
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; for it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure.
Philippians 2:5-7a, 8-9
“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,… and became obedient to the point of death – even death on a cross. Therefore God also highly exalted him.”
I think this passage gives us a beautiful clue about the nature of God and God’s relationship to us, and about the essence of our own being and how to live more authentically. The key is the flow. Out and in, like breath. Down and up, like Christ.
In Christ, God empties the divine self into the life of Jesus, a humble, Jewish peasant. God takes the lowest place on the human chain of being. As Paul says, he “emptied himself, taking the form of a slave.”
Then Jesus continues his life of humble self-emptying, giving himself away in compassionate love to heal and to reconcile, moving among the broken and the outcast, the unclean and the sinners, bringing wholeness and inviting them into communion with him at his scandalously open table. When the authorities condemned him, “He humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death – even death on a cross.”
In all of that, Jesus fully identified with our humanity, including our corporate evil and systemic injustice, our human violence and ignorance. He endured the physical pain of torture, the emotional pain of hopelessness, the spiritual pain of abandonment, and finally the agony of the death of the condemned. In all of that he was entirely one with us, fully human. Yet we say he also was fully divine, one with God. God with us. Emmanuel. God emptied the divine self into the depths of the human condition, into our deepest alienation. St. Paul put it this way: “For our sake [God] made him to be sin who knew no sin.” (2 Cor. 5:21)
In Christ, we see God’s infinite love for humanity. God becomes one with us at our worst. Christ absorbs our sin and becomes sin with us; he suffers the consequences of sin – alienation and death.
Then God “highly exalted him,” as Paul puts it. In the resurrection and ascension, God takes Jesus into the heart of the divine. And because Jesus has become one with us in his total embrace of the human condition, Jesus brings with him all of humanity into the heart of God. Out and in. Down and up. Divinity is poured out and humanity is raised up. That is the whole flow of the divine action in creation.
So you see, our sins are not a problem for God. The Scripture says that Jesus has taken away the sins of the world. Thomas Keating likes to say, God is not put off by our mistakes. Our problem is not our sins, our problem is our lack of trust in the love God has for us. We don’t trust God, so we take things into our own hands and mess up our lives. We turn ourselves into projects, trying to seize for ourselves the things God would give us freely. We waste our lives trying to fill our exaggerated needs for security, for esteem and affection; trying to maintain our exaggerated needs for power and control. And we find our identity not in our true identity as God’s beloved children, but in our tribal affiliations – us or them, the politics of red or blue, and all the ways we divide human unity. We take our identity from the part instead of the whole, and we create tragic conflict and bitter alienation. We tear apart the oneness that God intends.
The healing journey is the emptying journey. Emptying ourselves of our compulsive needs and trusting our infinitely loving and generous God who is giving us at every moment perfect security and unqualified love; and who is infinitely powerful for good. The healing journey is to empty ourselves of any separate or tribal identity, and to become one. The underlying reality is this: right here, right now, we are all one with God, one with humanity, one with creation.
In order to experience that, we must let the same mind be in us that was in Christ Jesus. Like Jesus we simply empty ourselves in trust. We let go of our anxious needs. We let go of our projects to make ourselves into something. We empty ourselves like Jesus, and live alert-in-the-moment with confident trust in an infinitely compassionate, present and creative God. In every nanosecond of time, God is pouring goodness and love upon us.
Listen to these words from Thomas Keating: “God is so marvelously good, there is no word for it. So gentle. So considerate. So kind, so tender – so everything marvelous. That is God.” “The Presence is so immense, yet so humble; awe-inspiring, yet so gentle; limitless, yet so intimate, tender and personal. I know that I am known. Everything in my life is transparent in this Presence. It knows everything about me – all my weaknesses, brokenness, sinfulness – and still loves me infinitely. This Presence is healing, strengthening, refreshing – just by its Presence. It is nonjudgmental, self-giving, seeking no reward, boundless and compassionate. It is like coming home to a place I should never have left, to an awareness that was somehow always there, but I did not recognize.”
The path to wholeness is to trust this Presence, this Reality. To let God love you. To empty yourself of your compulsive projects, your checklists, your judgments about yourself and others. To become present to the Presence, right here, right now.
So how does this work? Let me describe what I call being in the Flow.
Whenever I can let go of my preoccupations and worries – whatever is nagging my memory from the past or whatever I’m thinking about for the future… Whenever I can let go of any preoccupation with myself – not worrying about how am I doing or what I just messed up or what do I need to do… Whenever I can remember simply that God is all and all is love… I find that sometimes I can just simply be in the present moment. I look around with open curiosity. I let go of thoughts and judgments. I let my intuition guide me. I act with no agenda but to respond to the present moment, accepting whatever it presents, including at times its sufferings, knowing that I am beloved and safe in God’s hands even to the point of death. I give myself to the moment in trust. I am simply poured out into the presence of the moment. Part of me seems to be watching myself with a detached peace. It’s like living in God and God living in me.
Thomas Keating says, “God seems to want to find out what it is like to live human life in us, and each of us is the only person who can ever give [God] that joy. Hence our dignity is incomparable. We are invited to give God the chance to experience God in our humanity, in our difficulties, in our weaknesses, in our addictions, in our sins. Jesus chose to be part of everyone’s life experience, whatever that is, and to raise everyone up to divine union.”
Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus. Out and in like breath; down and up like Christ. It is the flow of living in the resurrection. Right now.Download the Sermon PDF