Scripture: Philippians 2:1-13
In 2017 Abigail and I took a trip to California and while there we went to Disneyland. I had been to Disney World in Florida previously, but this was my first time to the California location. I was looking forward to this because Disneyland has a couple of rides that are not found in Disney World. One of those rides is the roller coaster The Matterhorn. Instead of using the long train cars that other roller coasters use this uses little toboggan shaped cars that only fit 4-6 people at a time, because of that the line can be a little slow moving. We waited in that line, and rode the ride along with a parent and child in the front of our car. At the ride’s end as we pulled back to the platform, the Disney cast member asked “did you have fun?” After positive responses, he looked at the child with a wry smile and asked “Do you want to do it again?” Of course the child responded, with an enthusiastic “Yes!” who wouldn’t? So we did not have to get off and unload but got to go around on the ride a second time, and we got to experience a little Disney magic.
Disney strongly encourages all of their cast members to provide excellent customer service, and one of the ways Disney does this is they allow and encourage their employees to go above and beyond for customers, like allowing a kid to ride a roller coaster twice, to create an extra special experience. Like I said, Disney encourages their employees to look for opportunities to do this and it even has a special name. It is called a pixie dust experience or pixie dusting. This name comes from Peter Pan, where pixie dust is the little something special that Tinkerbell sprinkled that enabled the children to fly. In the same way pixie dust at Disney is the little something special that is meant to make a great day into a truly magical and unforgettable day.
Pixie dust is one of the things that makes Disney stand apart from other theme parks. Going above and beyond to try and make a day at Disney extra special is a hallmark of the Magic kingdom. While this morning’s scripture does not contain Tinkerbell or any other fairy, I do think it is advocating for a similar approach. In this morning’s scripture, the apostle Paul encourages the church of Philippi to go above and beyond in how they treat one another and live their life. At Disney one of the ways that guests experience that Disney magic is through pixie dust experiences, and as followers for Christ one of the ways that people should be able to experience the grace and love of God is through how we have the mindset of Christ Jesus.
The standout portion of this morning’s scripture are verses 6-11. These poetic verses describe not only the character of Jesus but point to how worthy of worship Jesus is. Poetry and verse is not something that Paul really shows a proclivity for in his other writings and this has led many biblical scholars to conclude that these verses are an example of an early Christian hymn that was used in the worship of the first churches. As someone who like history, and especially likes to feel the history, I am especially drawn to this scripture and the thought that these are the words the first century Christians used when they gathered for worship. While this early hymn might be the star of the show, if we put all of our focus on it then we miss why Paul shared it in the first place. Verse 5 states “In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus.” The hymn then helps illustrate what this mindset is. I think the questions this scripture should really raise for us to consider is what is the mindset of Jesus?
Fortunately, the hymn shared in this morning’s scripture does begin to answer that question. It is mentioned that Jesus was humble, Jesus was obedient to God the father, and Jesus took the very nature of a servant. While this morning’s scripture focuses on how Jesus’ obedience, humility, and servanthood culminated on the cross, but that is not the only example that illustrates the mindset of Christ. We can find examples of the mindset of Jesus throughout the gospels. We see his mindset at the last supper in the gospel of John when Jesus takes the role of the lowliest servant and washes the feet of the disciples. We hear the mindset of Jesus when Jesus tells his disciples, “whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave- just as the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve.” We read about the mindset of Jesus in the gospel of Matthew, where the author recorded about Jesus, “When he saw the crowds he had compassion on them because they were harassed and helpless like sheep without a shepherd.”
We can infer the mindset of Christ from the actions that he took. Jesus noticed the people that others tried not to notice. He let the little children come to him. He looked past the infirmaries that others considered being punished for their sins. Jesus saw the person and freed them from their pain. Jesus noticed the people on the margins, including tax collectors who hid in trees like Zacchaeus. Not only did Jesus notice them, but he them where they were at. One of the biggest criticisms that those who opposed Jesus leveled against him is that he ate and drank with sinners. This morning’s scripture gives a start to what the mindset of Christ looks like, but through reading the gospels we get a fuller picture.
If one were to summarize the mindset of Christ as presented in the four gospels, I might hazard to do it as such: The mindset of Christ is a love of God with absolute devotion and obedience. This love for God leads to a compassion for the people that God loves, especially those that are more likely to be forgotten about. This compassion then leads to love in action and serving others to make God’s love something that the people actively experience. I believe this morning’s scripture sum’s up this mindset with the emphasis on the humble, obedient, service of Jesus. This morning’s scripture urges that we are to have the same mindset as well.
It is worth noting that specifically we are to have this mindset for one another. At the beginning of this morning’s scripture Paul urges the Philippians to have the love of Jesus for one another and to humbly value one another above themselves. He urges them to not look out for themselves first but to put the interest of the others above themselves. Paul did not tell the church of Philippi to go out into the world to treat everyone the way that Jesus treated them. He started smaller, he told the church of Philippi to treat each other that way. This is intentional, because church is to be our training grounds for having the mindset of Christ. We learn how to have compassion like Jesus, serve like Jesus, and love like Jesus in how we treat one another and then that mindset spills out of our walls to transform the world. That is the model that is being advocated for in this morning’s scripture.
The model being advocated is to have the mindset of Jesus by being more intentional in the way that we love God and then love others. There is a special word for intentional life decisions that have us more fully love God and love others. The word for that is holiness. The Methodist movement started by John Wesley in the 1700s, the movement that gave birth to the United Methodist Church, was founded as a holiness movement. Methodism sprung into existence as a way to encourage believers to have the same mindset of Christ. John Wesley’s officially defined holiness as ““the loving God with all our heart and soul, and our neighbour as ourselves. It is love governing the heart and life, running through all our tempers, words, and actions.” This kind of love that governs our life and is evident through our words and actions is exactly what Paul is writing about in this morning’s scripture.
The early Methodism movement took holiness seriously, and we should as well. The prescription of this scripture is clear. With one another, as brothers and sisters in Christ we be in harmony by having the same love for one another. We regularly are intentional about humbly valuing each other above ourselves. We regularly are intentional about relating to one another, not with judgement and critique but with grace and humility. We regularly seek to love one another the way that Jesus does this. The early Methodists did this. They met together in small classes and bands, they came together as larger societies, and they pushed each other to have the mindset of Christ. They held each other accountable to a higher standard and they practiced loving one another.
As a community of faith, the early Methodists practice having the mindset of Christ in how they treated one another. What happens next is the truly incredible part, because the love of God is too big to be contained in a building. Through the people called Methodists the mindset of Christ and the love of God, spilled out into the world. The early Methodists were known for their acts of charity and service. They provided for the poor, cared for the sick, visited the imprisoned, taught the uneducated, and gave voice to the oppressed and powerless
If we encourage and empower one another to live out the love of God, then that love is going to spill out of these doors, out of this community of faith and into the world. We will have the very mindset of Christ as we seek through word and action to bring hope to the hopeless, love the unloved, and lift up the downtrodden. That is the way it is supposed to work, and it is the way it can work. It is in our DNA. Seeking personal holiness, loving and encouraging one another is at the foundations of the Methodist movement. As United Methodists that is who we were, and by the grace of God it can be who we are.
Just like Disney cast members can share Disney magic through their pixie dust experience, we can share the magic of amazing grace and the life changing love of God by having the mindset of Christ Jesus. We can choose to that. Disney employees are always looking for the way they can make a visitor’s day extra special. In the same way may we have the mindset of Christ. Like Jesus may we notice those that others do not notice, may we have compassion on those in need, and may we share the love of God by how we serve people. We can and we should encourage one another on to personal holiness. We can and we should empower one another to share the love of God with the world around us. So may we do that. May we all be like minded and may we perfect Christian love as we seek to value one another above ourselves. North Judson UMC, my deepest and most since prayer for all of you is in your relationships with one another, may you have the same mindset as Christ Jesus Who, being in very nature[a] God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
7 rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature[b] of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
8 And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!
9 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.