Fr. Bill Carroll – The Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost, October 1, 2023

Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus.

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

“Life is short, and we do not have much time to gladden the hearts of those who journey the way with us. So be swift to love, and make haste to be kind.”

These are words from a popular blessing.  It comes to us from a nineteenth-century Swiss Christian, named Henri Frederic Amiel.  Amiel was a member of a French Protestant family who ran away to Switzerland to escape persecution for their faith.

Be swift to love.  Make haste to be kind.  

The longer I serve as a priest, the more I’m convinced that we are all a mess.  A beloved mess, a glorious mess, made in God’s own image and likeness.  But still a mess.  Behind closed doors, when no one is looking, many of us are barely holding on.  (I know that’s been true for our family at times.)  But I have come to know that it’s true for others as well–even those who seem to have it all together.

In our Epistle this morning, Paul urges us to have the same mind that was in Christ Jesus.  He is pleading with us to love each other like Jesus does.  To look “not to our own interests but to the interests of others.”

And, in doing that, he quotes from an old hymn.  It is far, far older than his letter.  The Philippians have sung it many times.  They know it by heart.  Paul is speaking about the life-changing power of Jesus and his love.

Let the same mind be in you (he says) that was in Christ Jesus, 
who, though he was in the form of God,
did not count equality with God
as something to be exploited,
but emptied himself,
and took on the form of a slave…

Paul is inviting us to live like Jesus.  This means we must repent of our self-centered behavior. Instead, we must put God first (and other people first) at the center of our lives.  We must humble ourselves like Jesus, so that (by his grace) we may live new and better lives of LOVE..

As some of you know, my daughter and her husband attended Oklahoma State University.  And, for me, the highlight of every OSU football game is watching the fans in the fourth quarter, when they play “I’ve got friends in low places” over the loudspeaker.  (Garth Brooks is a beloved alum and a former student-athlete there, and so the crowd goes wild. It’s a lot of fun to watch.)

In our Gospel lesson, Jesus tells the chief priests and the elders that “the tax collectors and prostitutes are going into the Kingdom of God ahead of you.”  In part, that’s because they know they need God.  And so, when Jesus comes (like the Baptist before him), preaching repentance, they hear his message as Good News.  It is Good News for them.  It is Good News for people in low places.

Most often, it’s not the righteous (but the sinners) who get it.  The Gospel appeals to those who have run out of other options.  Rather than good church people, it is street people who accept God’s love most fully.  (Because they need it.)  If we want to know Jesus, we need to look for him in low places.

If we want to follow Jesus, we must go into the places of suffering and shame.  Frank Weston, who was Bishop of Zanzibar, encouraged the Church back in 1923, to “go out and look for Jesus in the ragged, in the naked, in the oppressed and sweated, in those who have lost hope, in those who are struggling to make good. Look for Jesus (he said).  And when you see him, gird yourselves with his towel and try to wash their feet.”

The Christian faith is all about finding God in “the least of these.”  From the manger, all the way to the Cross, we find Jesus in low places.  In this way, we abandon any pretension to our own righteousness.  And we embrace the bleeding Savior, who is hanging on the Cross.

And so, let the same mind be in us that was in Christ Jesus  And let us follow him where he leads.  Let us love each other with his own love.  And let us follow him out into the community, where we can share that love.  For he has made us God’s children.

In him, we have received forgiveness.  We’ve been given new life and real freedom.  And so, let us take off the masks we wear (and stop telling the lies we often tell) to protect ourselves.

 Be swift to love.  Make haste to be kind.  (The world depends on us doing that.)

Today’s lesson from Philippians is also read during Holy Week.  It speaks to us about how Jesus suffered and died for our salvation.  Who could consider that without trembling?  Sometimes it causes us to weep.  But, in Jesus, we discover God’s generosity and forgiveness and love.  He is God, meeting us where we are.  He comes to seek and save us when we’re lost. To quote from Ruth Burrows, whose book we read last Lent, 

Love’s victory was won not in the power of the Godhead but in a human frailty, that shrank in revulsion and fear, in quivering humanity that cried to the Father to be spared the ordeal if it were possible.  The sheep was hopelessly lost (she says). Unable to find the way back to the fold, it lay helpless in the wilderness. The shepherd braves the wilderness and, at the cost of great suffering, finds where it lies. The sheep is too [wounded] to follow his shepherd; he is not asked to. Joyfully the shepherd hoists it onto his weary, wounded shoulders and carries it home, exulting. 

Be swift to love.  Make haste to be kind.  

And get you some friends in low places.