There is a hymn I have never chosen for I’m sure 30 years in it’s original form:
Stand up stand up for Jesus
you soldiers of the cross.
Lift high His royal banner, it must not suffer loss.
From victory unto victory
His army shall he lead.
Till every foe is vanquished
and Christ is Lord indeed.
1859 After first publication, the hymn was popular and was sung by both the Union and Confederate soldiers in the American Civil War.
And so a very worldly picture of Christ victor.
Defeating all our enemies.
And I raise this as we approach Easter
because this is what is on the minds of the disciples as they head for Jerusalem.
They are imagining Jesus calling the people to arms and over throwing the Romans and making Israel great again.
That sounds familiar!
And this is what we seem to want.
The church victorious
and we define victory in terms of being
at the top
It’s not new
it has always been the way.
And right up until
the last supper the disciples are still arguing about who is the greatest amongst them.
Even after the resurrection, the disciples are still asking: Will you at this time restore the Kingdom to Israel
but it’s not Jesus Kingdom they want
they want the old Kingdom restored.
A Kingdom of power and coercion and might and swords and spears.
Is this not for many Christians the kind of
Kingdom they still want?
And so we have even taken Jesus parable about
the people given money to invest
and we applaud the guy who earned the most interest
and rubbished the guy who didn’t buy into the system
completely inverting Jesus’ truth.
So the Jesus we have mostly worshipped
is in a lot of minds;
Blond, American, rather than dark haired middle Eastern;
a capitalist rather than for want of a better word, a socialist,
who believed in sharing what he had with others.
And very definitely supporting the American/ the Anglo way
and being prepared to battle for it.
Interestingly a couple of years ago
an American reporter on that channel of all wisdom
and grace, Fox News, declared that it was her God given right to
carry a gun.
God given and gun
somehow was jarring for me.
So the God we have created in our own image
if we listen to certain evangelists
is upwardly mobile.
He represents the American way and of course is a republican.
Some years ago I was listening to a TV evangelist
whose take on Jesus was that he lived in a luxurious villa in Nazareth
with his disciples and was very wealthy.
He referred to a text where Jesus says: Birds have nests and Foxes have holes
but I have nowhere to lay my head.
This particular evangelists take on that was, the team had been on a mission and when they got there
they discovered that no one had booked accommodation for them
and so they went back to the mansion in Nazareth.
You can justify a lot of personal stuff with that kind of interpretation!
The apostle Paul, probably better than any other, got, the Jesus message.
And he writes a letter to a church
probably no bigger than we are today
and he wants to set Jesus as a model before them.
A best way to live if you like.
And then he describes what Jesus was doing:
He writes Jesus made himself of no reputation.
He was always with God
and in God
but he chose to empty himself.
Paul says, he voided everything he was.
Imagine you have this triple degree
and you have all these qualifications and
the power to influence
and you take all your glittering prizes and you void them.
You make them as nothing.
So Jesus – what have you got. Nothing.
Well what are your qualifications. Don’t have any.
Well what’s so good about you, what’s your reputation? Nothing
worth talking about.
He empties Himself, and becomes a no man a nothing man.
Then writes Paul, Jesus abased himself,
he humiliated himself.
Wait wait wait! Are we talking about the King of Kings and Lord of Lords?
By the way, that was what the Roman boss saw himself as – King of kings and Lord of Lords.
Paul goes on: he made his nature
the nature of a slave.
Again a nothing! A slave has no power.
And walked the path of obedience all the way to the most humiliating
nothing person, kind of torturous execution
on a cross.
Oh, by the way, there was one thing he never emptied himself of and that was love.
Why? Because He is love.
He can empty himself of everything humanely speaking that
appeals to the upwardly mobile,
and still lose nothing
because he is love
and in him there is no darkness.
And then after the torturous death writes Paul
that after living true to His nature of nothingness,
God raises Jesus to the highest place above
and gives him the Name greater than any other Name.
The resurrection of Jesus is the ultimate and only possible response to his life.
This God this Jesus
has emptied himself of all judgement
over you and me
has become the final word in your life and mine
and all lives.
It would be as if the high judge and all the judiciary
and all the minions of law and order
have surrendered their
power and instruments of justice and retribution
and become loving slaves
to all committers of pain and hurt and evil
holding them in an embrace of healing and restorative love
until they themselves become love.
Understanding this self-emptying of Jesus Paul writes: Don't do anything from selfish ambition or from a cheap desire to boast, but be humble toward one another, always considering others better than yourselves. And look out for each other’s interests not just your own.
Why because that is the nature of God.
Some of you may know the names, Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgensen.
They are rock climbers
that set out to climb a sheer 3000 ft granite rock face called the Dawn Wall.
It will take them 19 days
The climb’s ultimate test is Pitch 15, a long traverse across a stretch of rock as flat as a freshly ironed and starched collar After multiple failures, Caldwell summons some unknowable mix of skill and resolve and spiders across. But Jorgesen is foiled repeatedly over a long sequence of days and. Eventually Caldwell must move on – after all, this started off as his dream and he works his way up several other challenging pitches until it becomes clear he’ll make it. He can easily make the top
and receive the accolades and the honours of being the first person to free climb this impossible cliff face.
Except that he doesn’t. He goes back to his friend Kevin and in a halting, half-mumbled delivery, Caldwell declares that he’s not about to finish the climb without his buddy, no matter how much he’d poured himself into it over the past six years.
Someone said, “We all thought it was an act of madness that Tommy was waiting for Kevin,” “Kevin had never climbed that difficulty, that grade level, on any route outside of the Dawn Wall in his life. It was a whole new frontier, and here he was, two weeks into this event, his body torn apart.”
Tommy could have made it on his own but in a few day they both make the top.
You might say, Tommy Caldwell became nothing
he gave up the right to boast
he was humble and looked out for his friends’ interest
not just his own.
So the emptying God we know in Jesus
empties himself of all but
love and love alone and comes down to find us
and serve us
that in that embrace
you and I might be healed
and all mankind
restored to every other,
overcoming every division.
No spears and guns
no loud display of pomposity
no self lifting up,
no bragging this Jesus
just a humility of love that refuse to let us go.
And for this reason: God raised him to the highest place above and gave him the name that is greater than any
Now unto God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, be all honour and glory, world without end. Amen.
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