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“Of One Mind”

Rev. Katherine Todd
Romans 15:1-6
Philippians 4:1-9

Romans 15:1-6

We who are strong ought to put up with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Each of us must please our neighbor for the good purpose of building up the neighbor. For Christ did not please himself; but, as it is written, “The insults of those who insult you have fallen on me.” For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, so that by steadfastness and by the encouragement of the scriptures we might have hope. May the God of steadfastness and encouragement grant you to live in harmony with one another, in accordance with Christ Jesus, so that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

 

Philippians 4:1-9

Therefore, my brothers and sisters, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, my beloved.

I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord. Yes, and I ask you also, my loyal companion, help these women, for they have struggled beside me in the work of the gospel, together with Clement and the rest of my co-workers, whose names are in the book of life.

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.

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Euodia and Syntyche.
Euodia and Syntyche.

Why does Paul specifically mention these two women?

Well first off, it should be well-noted that in this society, his mentioning of two women – particularly by name – is of great respect.  He goes against cultural norms that simply lumped women all together or behind men.  But Paul is calling them by name.

Not only this, but they are not being uplifted as a caricature of sinfulness or weakness (as was often the case for mentioning women), no.  Paul validates their service to the Gospel, alongside him.  He acknowledges their valued contributions and seems to hold them both in high regard, saying they have struggled beside him in the work of the Gospel.  And he asks his comrade to assist them, to help them.

 

Paul calls Euodia and Syntyche by name – not in shame, not to make a mockery of them, not reducing them to their mistakes.  They are far more than their mistakes.  They are valued and cherished.

But Paul appeals to their best nature.
Paul encourages them, in respect.
Paul exhorts them to BE OF ONE MIND.

BEFORE suggesting they step down from their work of leadership…
BEFORE suggesting they leave the congregation, the fellowship…
Paul entreats them to BE OF ONE MIND.

Be of one mind.

 

 

Pat was telling me last week of a group of Catholic sisters.  As was their practice, when they conducted the business of the church, they did not vote.  They sought God.  They prayed.  And they moved forward by consensus.  By consensus.

Be of one mind.

 

Now there are certainly times when consensus will not work.
Had Jesus surveyed the crowd and waited for permission and agreement, he would not have spoken up or spoken out.
He would not have taught.
Jesus would not have called disciples or healed the sick.

Jesus did not wait on the people to catch the vision
To get the point,
To see the end-point.

Jesus led by doing.
Jesus led by speaking.
Jesus led by calling.

Consensus would not have been the way.

 

However, in the work of the church, there is something to say for “being of one mind.”

 

Now this does NOT mean to agree about everything.
It dos NOT mean we all need to be alike.

Paul, himself, praises the variety of gifts of the people of God – as being led by the Spirit of God and vital to the church.

 

So what does it mean “to be of one mind”?

 

While none but God can peer into the mind of Paul, we can seek God here and now, for guidance to the truth.
And I see some guidance in the words that follow.

Paul calls them to let their gentleness to known to all.
Known to all…
That’s some kind of gentleness.
That is radical gentleness.
That is counter-cultural gentleness.
That is Christ-like gentleness,
Is it not?

Could it be that to be of one mind
is to treat one another with gentleness as well?
…to mind one’s words
…to mind one’s actions,
grounding each
in gentleness? 

 

Paul asks of them to call to mind all those things that are honorable, excellent, just, commendable, and worthy of praise.  And then he instructs them to “think upon these things.”
And if we truly take stock of the wonders and beauty all around,
we will never want for good things to think on.

Could it be that to be of one mind,
we must dwell on goodness?
Could it be that to be of one mind,
we must actively remember all that is excellent and worthy of praise?
Could it be that to be of one mind, we must THINK ON everything honorable? 

Could it be
that we divide and disrespect,
grow to despise
and become disillusioned,
when we think on and dwell on
rehearse and actively remember
our disappointments,
our grudges,
our complaints?

 

Paul instructs them to rejoice.  Always.
Rejoice.
Always.
Always rejoice.

Could it be that there are infinitely more things in which to rejoice in
than there are to complain about?
Could it be that a habit
of rejoicing
of giving thanks
drives out angst, anger, depression, division?
Could it be that a spiritual practice of gratitude and rejoicing
unites us in Christ,
causing us to be of one mind?

 

“Keep on doing the things…”
“Keep on doing the things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me…”
Follow my example
in your actions
in your choices
in your behavior.

Persevere
Press on
Keep on going

Don’t give up

 

Perhaps it is by keeping on fighting the good fight,
keeping on running the race,
keeping on doing good, speaking good,
keeping on behaving gently
keeping on speaking with gentleness,
keeping on remembering all that is commendable,
keeping on dwelling on the excellent, honorable, and just;
keeping on rejoicing
always…
that we begin to experience how God can knit us together as one family of faith,
as sisters and brothers in the family of God
as fellow servants of our Living God.

Let us press on and
be of one mind.

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PRAYER                       (Book of Common Worship)

Almighty God,

You alone can order unruly wills and affections.

Help us to love what you command

and desire what you promise;

that in the midst of this changing world,

our hearts may be fixed

where true joys are found;

through Jesus Christ our Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, forever and ever.  Amen.

 

 

“The Lesser or the Greater?”

Rev. Katherine Todd
Philippians 2:12-13
1 Samuel 8:4-18 and 11:14-15

Philippians 2:12-13

Therefore, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed me, not only in my presence, but much more now in my absence, 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.

1 Samuel 8:4-18 and 11:14-15

Then all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah, and said to him, “You are old and your sons do not follow in your ways; appoint for us, then, a king to govern us, like other nations.” But the thing displeased Samuel when they said, “Give us a king to govern us.” Samuel prayed to the Lord, and the Lord said to Samuel, “Listen to the voice of the people in all that they say to you; for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them. Just as they have done to me, from the day I brought them up out of Egypt to this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so also they are doing to you. Now then, listen to their voice; only—you shall solemnly warn them, and show them the ways of the king who shall reign over them.”

So Samuel reported all the words of the Lord to the people who were asking him for a king. He said, “These will be the ways of the king who will reign over you: he will take your sons and appoint them to his chariots and to be his horsemen, and to run before his chariots; and he will appoint for himself commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and some to plow his ground and to reap his harvest, and to make his implements of war and the equipment of his chariots. He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive orchards and give them to his courtiers. He will take one-tenth of your grain and of your vineyards and give it to his officers and his courtiers. He will take your male and female slaves, and the best of your cattle and donkeys, and put them to his work. He will take one-tenth of your flocks, and you shall be his slaves. And in that day you will cry out because of your king, whom you have chosen for yourselves; but the Lord will not answer you in that day.”

1 Samuel 11:14-15

Samuel said to the people, “Come, let us go to Gilgal and there renew the kingship.” So all the people went to Gilgal, and there they made Saul king before the Lord in Gilgal. There they sacrificed offerings of well-being before the Lord, and there Saul and all the Israelites rejoiced greatly.

I am moved by this scripture. Here we hear God talking with Samuel, as with a friend.  Samuel has been the leader.  It has been his role to commune with God and lead the people with God’s own words. The whole point is that God is the only true and best leader of the people.  And these people have been set apart to birth into the world God’s own light, God’s own Son – that all people may know God’s love and justice.

But for now, the people feel insecure.  On all sides, people have leaders, kings and queens who they can look to.  But the people of God perhaps feel a bit left out. They want a king too.  They want a clear and definitive earthly leader.  They want the security of an army.  They want everyone to know they can hang with the best of them…

And this Samuel, he’s old. He’s dying soon, and his sons do not follow in his ways.  The people are looking at the line-up and saying, “Something’s got to give. There’s no hope for us in this way. The future is not bright, and we’d rather have a shiny, splendid, powerful and mighty King anyway…”

Samuel hears this and is unhappy.

But God is tender with him. God explains that this rejection is less about Samuel and more about God.  In fact, the people are doing to Samuel what they’ve been doing to God, for their whole history as a people and a nation.  They’ve been ungrateful and faithless, forsaking God time and again, forgetting the goodness and presence of God with them.  God explains that this rejection of Samuel as their leader is most truly a rejection of God as their leader.

And so God will give them up to their desires.

With the wisdom of a parent, God allows the people to follow their base dreams.  God knows they will only learn, by their own experience.

But God wants to warn them – of the trouble it will bring, of the loss they will experience, of their ultimate enslavement to this King they so badly want.

So God instructs Samuel to warn the people.  And so he does.

But still the people are set in their desire.  Nothing but a King will do, and they will not heed Samuel’s warning.

This reminds me of the verses about how God will not give you a snake if you ask for bread.  I love that verse.  It reminds us that God wants the best for us.  It reminds us that our biggest obstacles to receiving the goodness of God in our lives is most often ourselves – for if we simply ask, God is most faithful and generous to us.

But in these moments when we’ve set our hearts and minds on something that will end in our own destruction, God may give us this as well.

It isn’t without warning. It isn’t without utmost care and compassion, but our God seems to know that our journeys through everything less than the best are in some way necessary.  When we’ve set our hearts on lesser things, we are rarely satisfied, we rarely see the light, until we’ve gotten what we wanted…and all that came with it.

We can’t see the emptiness of an encounter until we’ve gone after it, only to feel hollow and alone.

We can’t see the waywardness of a choice, until we’ve wandered so far from home that we can barely remember it.

We often cannot see the wisdom of God’s way, until we’ve followed our own ways to their natural ends…

We can be a stubborn people.
Much like our ancestors in the faith, we want what we want.
But what if we trusted God, more than our own assessments
More than our own desires
More than our own vision or foresight
Can we come to God full of our desires and dreams
And lay each one down at Christ’s feet?
Can we ask God to speak truth over all our endeavors?
Can we listen to what the Spirit is saying to our secret hearts?

For me the challenge was less in the listening and more in the trusting.

For one, I didn’t know if I could trust myself.
I feared I would hear wrong.
And so I was afraid to act on what I heard.

So I started small.  I would pray about seemingly innocuous things, asking God to guide me, and then I’d watch expectantly to see what God did in my obedience.  In this way, I began to trust more that I was hearing God.  In this way, God amazed me – guiding me toward that which I could never know or foresee – sparing me much of the circling and wondering and wasting of time.  It showed me God was active in and cared about me in the smallest of things.

But still the bigger things felt like too much.  They felt too risky.  I worried I’d listen more to my own desires than to God.  But God knows these sorts of anxieties we carry with us.

And God was most merciful with me.  When I would sense God’s direction on a thing, I would write it down.  And I’d ask God to confirm it.  And in time, the thing would be confirmed again and again. There on paper, in black and white, I couldn’t run away from it or forget it.

And I had a choice to make – whether to follow God or not.

And that is where my biggest fear lied.  Could I set down my own desires, my own plans, and follow God.

Can we acknowledge our own desires.  Can we look them in the eye, wink at them, and set them down at God’s feet?

Can we step back and look then to God.  Can we smile and wink at God, and ask God to do with our desires and plans whatever God will?

Can we ask God to give us the desire to do God’s will?

In Philippians Paul writes, “for it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure.”

God does not merely show us the way and then leave us to work out the details of following on our own. In fact, God supplies all we need. God gives us the very desire and ability to follow.  Truly God’s callings are God’s enablings.  And we have been given the Spirit of God – to comfort us, to intercede for us, to reveal God’s Word and will to us, and to empower us to follow.

We too have been richly blessed.  The Israelites were chosen by God and God Godself was their leader.  God led them by fiery pillar and cloud.  God led them by prophets.  God led them by signs and wonders.

And yet they laid down the better thing, to grab hold of the lesser thing – to be led by a person – full of human weakness and failure.

May we learn from our forebears in the faith.

May we develop habits of quieting our hearts and minds in the presence of God.  May we lay down our dreams and desires, asking Got to take them, as God will – assuring us that they are from God and good or warning us that there is no future in them – that we may truly be people of God!

May we receive and cling to the very best that God came and lived and taught and died and rose again that we might have!

God has poured out himself that we might have life, to the full!

May God grow our trust in God.
May we take steps of faith, in big things and small.
And may we be found faithful.
God desires the very best for us.
Will we humble ourselves
And open ourselves
…to receive it?