Not "Me" but "We!"

Proper 21A’20 

27 September 2020 

Phil. 2.1-13; Mt.21.23-32 

St. Luke’s Episcopal Church 

Facebook Livestream 

North Little Rock, Arkansas 

The Rev. Carey Stone 

 

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. Amen. 

page1image2152495472 Being married to an “eye doctor” who serves veterans through the VA, I’ve learned a lot about “eye trouble,” from detached retinas, and corneal abrasions, to macular de-generation and many other conditions with names so long I can’t pronounce or remember. She’s a smart cookie, with a heart of compassion who manages to serve our veterans with care, grace, and style.  

J.R.R. Tolkien (pronounced Tol-keen), the master storyteller and author of the Lord of the Rings, created the mythical realm known as Middle Earth.  The land known as Mordor is ruled through the power of the One Ring by the Dark Lord, Sauron, who seeks to rule the whole of middle earth, and all its inhabitants including the short creatures known as “Hobbits.” Interestingly enough, Tolkien (Tol-keen) chose a massive eye to symbolize Sauron. This eye, perched atop a tower could see all of Mordor and beyond. The ‘big eye’ of Sauron was constantly looking to find the One Ring that had been entrusted to a lowly and humble hobbit, named Frodo Baggins. Sauron, symbolized by a ‘big-eye’ is a play on words, and symbolizes the trouble that is common to us all – ‘I – Trouble’, not e-y-e, eye, but an upper-case letter “I.”  

This disorder dwarfs COVID and afflicts all of us for its a part of the human condition. It’s fitting that today just happens to mark the 954th anniversary of the Norman Conquest of England led by William the Conqueror. This ‘I-Trouble’ of our putting our egos in charge has been around for a very long time, and it’s so easily seen in others but so very hard to spot in ourselves.  

We have very recently lost a great human being, – Supreme Court Justice, Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Although she was small in stature her legacy looms large, for she fought hard for freedom, justice, and equality for all, and she prevailed. Listen to these words from RBG: “If you want to be a true professional, you will do something outside yourself, something to repair tears in your community, something to make life a little better for people less fortunate than you. That’s what I think a meaningful life is – living not for oneself, but for one’s community.” 

Paul wrote his letter to the Philippians from a prison cell, in an effort to “repair a tear” that had come to the Philippian church through the selfishness of just two individuals. They were both blinded by their own egos and agendas until the whole community stood on the brink of a split.  Paul could see that the Philippians were suffering from ‘I-Trouble.’  He calls them back to unity and oneness and the pattern of Christ: “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.”   

I can’t think of a more current situation that is more ‘anti mind of Christ,’ than the “anti-mask mandate protests” that have been held across the country since July. True enough, early on there was confusion and misinformation on the subject of wearing a mask, but with the brightest health experts in agreement, our President and Vice President both now seen in public wearing masks, and with a mounting death toll of well over 200,000 Americans, it is the epitome of selfish ambition and conceit to have so little regard for your fellow Americans to continue refusing to social distance and wear a mask!  

As the Rev. Michael Foley said, “Pride is our greatest enemy. Humility is our best friend… Pride is [jealous] of the success of other people. Humility celebrates the success of other people. Pride is about what I feel, what I desire and what I want. Humility asks what others need and desire and what Jesus wants.” 

Paul, in a Philippian jail, not thinking about himself prays and thinks about what the church he began in Philippi gridlocked in division needed in order to thrive, what would be the antidote for the selfishness that was tearing the community apart? He remembered an early hymn of the Church, known as “the Christ Hymn,” it was one of the hymns that he had actually taught to the congregation during its founding. See, we aren’t the only ones who have a list of favorite hymns – it is a long tradition within our faith. Our hymns point us to the rock-solid foundation our faith is built on. 

The Christ Hymn captures in a few lines the antithesis of an egocentric life and the servant essence of the Mind of Christ:  [chant]

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 ex-alted 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 con-fess 

that Je-sus Christ - is Lord, 

To the glory of God the Fa-ther. 

Ah-ah-ah-ah-men. 

There is a fable attributed to a Rabbi Romshishok known as the “Allegory of the Long Spoons” and it is used to tell the difference between what heaven and hell are like: In both locations the inhabitants are seated at a long table filled with rich food. Each are issued spoons that are about five feet in length. Obviously, there was no way one person could get any food in their mouths without cooperating with another person. In hell, no one was willing to cooperate so they all starved. In heaven they each cooperated by feeding the person on the other side of the table, and they all lived!1 

The Church, the Community of Faith confronts the selfish world and us all, with the truth that our “big I” is not the center of the universe, that the message of our faith is not “me” but “we”. The prescription that is called for is humility. Our egos are being called to deeper surrender, to humble ourselves before our Lord Christ and to seek and serve Christ in our neighbors and in one another.  

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. Amen. 

 


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