This Sunday is called World Communion Sunday on the Christian calendar of the mainline denominations. That is the Sunday when we think about and talk about what Christians have in common, about what unites us as Christians. Sometimes finding something in common that we can all agree on is pretty hard. We all have our individual ideas and we think that our ideas are the best ideas and ideas of others cannot really be as good as our own. That is part of human nature, it seems.
This World Communion Sunday, however, we have a passage from the book of Philippians to set us straight. This passage does not tell us that our ideas are the best or that we can have a good idea to share with others. It instructs us instead to "be of the same mind." Wow--Being of the same mind is a hard thing to do at times. It means that people often have to agree on one thing or another and reach some form of compromise, leaving behind what one may think is best in view of what another may need or want or think, if that other is someone we need to assist in bringing about what they need or want or think.
Paul gives the Church at Philippi some strong words to consider when he tells them, "Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others." (2:4) In other words, consider what others need over your own needs. Put aside what you may need at the moment in order to meet the needs of others. We have all done that. Our actions on behalf of others are often automatic, without considering if we should or should not assist another person.
There is a sweet lady that I meet at our local grocery store now and then. She is bent over with osteoporosis but she still goes to the grocery store to buy the things she needs and takes them to her car by herself. When I see her ahead of me in the line, I always offer to help her get her things to her car, not because I hope she will give me a tip or because she is some special or popular or well known individual or even because I hope this will put one more star in my crown in heaven. I help this woman with her groceries because it is the right thing to do. It is the neighborly thing to do. It is the Christian thing to do. And you do the same kinds of things for the same reasons. I am not SuperChristian because I do it. I do it because Jesus would have done it too if he had been there.
Paul says that very thing in the passage from Philippians we will study this week in worship. "Let the same mind be in your 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..." (2:5-7b) Paul was getting at the fact that the pre-existent Christ had every right and reason to just remain in heaven with God but he gave us that right and instead became a human being to be a servant to all. Paul goes on to tell them his readers and hearers that Jesus in human flesh served and then died even though he did not have to. He chose to do this for others.
Paul admonishes the Church of Philippi to put aside their selfishness and arguing (and they were doing a lot of it) and "be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind" (2:2 b,c). If they were to consider the needs of others of greater importance than their own needs, then they would act as Christ had to give of themselves for the needs of others and of the entire Christian Community at Philippi.
Humility and service is what unites followers of Jesus Christ across the globe. We care about the needs of others because it is what Christians do. We care about the needs of individuals because it is what Christians do. We do for others, not just pray or believe for them. We act on our faith to make things happen locally and around the world. If Jesus could serve others and give of himself down to the place where he actually gave up his life then those who emulate him will want to follow his role model of service and sacrifice.
"...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." (2:12b-13) God is at work in the world. God is still speaking. God's voice is reminding us that the reason the Church of Jesus Christ exists is to be of service to others so that they will understand that God loves them and wants them to love one another as much as God loves them. When we show God's love through Christian service, the will and the work of God is done in the world around us.