Each week Pastor Sarah blogs on the Scripture for Sunday's upcoming sermon. Use this entry as a way to prepare your heart and mind for worship. See you Sunday!
Each week’s blog post during SSUMC’s Not So Secret Agents of God Series will offer a reflection on Jesus’ Greatest Commandment; by faithfully living into – which means faithfully living out! –our Savior’s command to love God with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength – friends, there is no way we will be secret agents of God!
Sunday’s Scripture ~ Acts 10:9-35.
Devotional Scripture ~ Mark 12:30 and Philippians 4:4-9.
In concluding his Philippian correspondence, Paul revisits why he initially wrote them. He lifts up a conflict between two leaders in the church – Euodia and Syntyche – and calls upon a third to help these two find reconciliation. The name or title of the third is Syzygos, which means “yokemate.”
When two people or animals are equally yoked, they work in partnership and effectiveness towards a common goal. If the pair is unequally yoked, then one will overexert while the other’s attitudes and ambitions continue to wane. Little is accomplished. Rather than moving forward, the pair moves only in a very small circle if they move at all.
Paul desires for this community to move forward and to continue thriving as hub of Christianity in Eastern Macedonia, which is modern day Greece. Paul lifts up the conflict of Euodia and Syntyche as a way of addressing how the community should address conflict. Paul does not offer a prescription so communities can avoid, escape, or prevent conflict; conflicts are going to happen and Paul is realistic about this. There will be stress in the fellowship of God’s people; therefore, communities need to develop capacities to handle conflict with confidence and grace, as it comes.
To develop these capacities, Paul employs his mind, which is humanity’s reasoning faculty. Again and again throughout his letters Paul makes reference to taking on the mind of Christ.
Taking on the mind of Christ means understanding God’s plan in the world: adoration to our Creator, restoration to all creation, salvation to all sinners.
Taking on the mind of Christ means identifying oneself with and within Christ’s purpose as revealed in his interaction with Zacchaeus, “For the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost” (Lk 19:10).
Taking on the mind the Christ means modeling our behaviors of obedience and humility (Phil 2:5-8), compassion (Mt 9:36), and prayerful dependence on God after the example of Christ (Lk 5:16).
From Paul’s interaction with the Philippians we learn that we should address conflict directly and with compassion. Paul says, “Let your gentleness be known to everyone” (4:5). In the RSV translation the word is not gentleness but forbearance, meaning patient self-control, the ability to control our emotions, our desires, and necessarily so, our actions. Paul identifies self-control as a fruit of the Spirit; displaying self-control is evidence of the Spirit rooting and flourishing in our beings.
Applying self-control is a conscious act of both heart and mind, which Paul acknowledges in his counsel to “guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (4:7). In the unity of heart and mind, Paul offers simple and profound practices to guide Christian communities when conflicts arise:
Always rejoice in the Lord.
Remember the presence of God and the return of Jesus.
Rather than holding on more tightly in challenging circumstances, pour out your souls to God in prayer with thanksgiving.
Flow with the peace of God.
And stay focused in your thinking on what is good, what is beneficial, what is working more than on what is broken, bad or lacking.
There is a scene in the film The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies shared between Thorin Oakenshield and Bilbo Baggins. Thorin is mortally wounded and beckons Bilbo to his side for the sole purpose to make peace regarding a previous conflict between them. Thorin says, “If more of us valued home above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.”
If we valued the mind of Christ – if we consciously decided to love the Lord our God with all our minds – more than being right and our own comfort, it would be a merrier world.
The world would be as Paul describes, “true, honorable, just, pure, pleasing, [and] commendable” (4:8). And we would be at home with Christ, furthering our transformation into overt agents of God.
Prayer: “We’ve a Savior to show to the nations, who the path of sorrow hath trod, that all of the world’s great peoples might come to the truth of God, might come to the truth of God. For the darkness shall turn to dawning, and the dawning to noonday bright; and Christ’s great kingdom shall come on earth, the kingdom of love and light.”*Amen.
*“We’ve a Story to Tell to the Nation,” The United Methodist Hymnal 569.