Year A – Palm Sunday – Philippians 2:5–11

Philippians 2:5–11 – Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, 7 but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, 8 he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death— even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Summary – The Church at Philippi was a healthy church, but not a perfect church. There were issues of disunity and disharmony (ch. 2-4). They needed the direct command, “Do all things without grumbling or disputing” (2:14). Paul extorted two women by name to, “live in harmony in the Lord” (4:2). In this well-know passage (ch. 2) he urges the church to make his joy complete, “by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose” (2:2). Paul gives a deeply poetic basis for unity resulting from humility: be of the same mind that was in Christ Jesus who humbled Himself even to death on a cross.

Insight – Have you ever heard a familiar tune with different lyrics? Sometimes we do this for fun, but sometimes we hear a new verse written by the songwriter, but was wasn’t recorded in the version we know. Though we’ve never heard these words before, we know the song. Paul is doing this here. He’s giving us a different verse to an old song – the Suffering Servant of Isaiah (chapter 53). The Servant of the Lord (Is. 53) empties or “pours out” himself unto death. He bears griefs and sorrows, is wounded, is bruised, is chastised, is oppressed, is afflicted, is cut off, is stricken, is put to grief, is an offering for sin, and has poured out His soul unto death for all “we like sheep that have gone astray.” Paul summarizes the entire humiliation of the Servant in “emptying Himself.” All of this, as Isaiah 53 anticipates, brings about an exaltation. The stone table of death is shattered when He was “bruised for our iniquities.”

Child’s Catechism – Why should we stop grumbling and complaining? Because we should be like Jesus who humbled Himself.

Discussion – Do you have any hard relationships with others? How can the example of Christ’s humility help you deal with difficult people in your life?

Prayer – [Collect for Purity] Almighty God, unto whom all hearts are open, all desires known, and from whom no secrets are hid; Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of thy Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love thee, and worthily magnify thy holy Name; through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Year C – Palm Sunday – Philippians 2:5-11

Text–Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.  (Philippians 2:5-11 ESV)

Summary–We now come to one of the most glorious texts of the entire Bible.  What other religious writings describe the God of the universe emptying Himself of all majesty and taking the form of a servant, born in our likeness, but without sin?  The truth of this text is so hard to grasp that enumerable false teachers attempted to explain away what God did and replace it with an idol shaped in a package, easier for our sinful hearts to understand.  From the time of your grandfather’s grandfather, men have used this text to tell the lie that Jesus emptied himself of his “Godness” and took the form of a weak human being.  This, so called “Kenotic Theory” led many to understand this text to say that Jesus left most of his Godly attributes at home in heaven, thus losing his divine nature.  Our text says no such thing.  In the context of a Philippian church filled with vainglorious members each insisting on their own rights based on their perceived importance, Paul uses Christ’s example to explain why the Philippians needed to humble themselves.  Paul points us to the God-Man who shows us what it is to be humble, and how it is to be glorified.

Insight–Are you ever embarrassed to let people know that you follow Christ?  Is it hard to share your faith with your classmates or coworkers because you may be labelled one of those Christians and lose your “cool” status?  Those who were causing trouble in the Philippian Church were concerned about how their friends and neighbors looked at them.  They were concerned about their image, anxious to make a good impression and desirous to be recognized as people of consequence.  By contrast, the one who really was important put himself in a position where people mistreated him and saw him with no regard.  There was nothing in his appearance to distinguish him from anyone else.  There was no halo, no glow about him to make him stand out in a crowd.  He looked utterly ordinary.  This Jesus of Nazareth, who could control the weather and raise the dead, did not use his divine power to his own advantage but allowed himself to be arrested, tried, whipped, mocked, and even crucified as a common criminal on a Roman cross.  We hide this Jesus from our friends because we see him as a weakling who was humiliated and continues to be so in the eyes of the world.  This fool took on your foolishness and chose the path of humiliation for your sakes.  He was thirsty, but took no drink.  He was assaulted by the powers of hell, but did not call on the army of angels.  Even when he saw the full cost of this emptying as he looked at the cup that would lead to the cross, he didn’t faulter.  Why did he do this?  Why did he take on your humiliation?  It was all for you.  God the Father now bestows all glory and majesty onto his son that we may confess him as our Lord and savior.  There is no need to hide this majesty from others.  In this season of Easter, rejoice for what the Lord accomplished on the cross.  Rejoice in gladness!  He did it for you.  Confess this before God and your neighbor, Jesus is LORD!

Catechism: (Q) Did Jesus lose any of his divine nature when he emptied himself? (A) No, Jesus is fully God and fully Man.

Discussion: What ways did Christ humiliate himself for us?  How should we react to this?

Prayer: Lord God almighty, we praise you for sending your son from the glory of heaven to dwell with us for a time.  At the cross, our Lord Jesus took on our humiliation for us.  There is no amount of work that can ever pay back this gracious act of love.  And you don’t ask us to work it off.  You don’t ask us to pay it back.  You ask us to trust and love your son for what he did for each of us.  Lord we confess with our mouths that Jesus died for us, that you raised him from the dead and that he now sits at your right hand.  We wait for his return in the majesty and glory due to him.  We praise you now, in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

Contributed by Michael Fenimore

Year C – The 5th Sunday in Lent – Philippians 3:4b-14

Text–If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law,blameless.  But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ.  Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith—   that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death,  that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.  Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.  Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead,  I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. [Philippians 3:4b-14 ESV]

Summary–This week’s text is an explanation of what Paul has been saying in the first three verses in the chapter, where he claims, “we are circumcision which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh” (vv.3).  The Apostle is tearing down the strongholds of Jews who attacked Gentile Christians by asserting that faith was not enough to be a member of God’s people.  These Jews, so called Judaizers, erected their own high places that Gentiles had to ascend in order to find God, chiefly among these high places being circumcision.  Only after following these Jewish practices could could they call themselves Christian.  These men trusted in their status as God’s chosen people and tried to force Christians to follow suit.  In the text before us, Paul compares his Jewish pedigree with Christian life thus showing where we are to put our trust in this life and the next.

Insight–In our day and age, Americans have a deep confidence in the flesh.  We have the strongest chariots and horses the world has ever known.  With this fleshy strength comes a sense of importance.  We trust that our power will influence those nations around us and bring about peace.  Hebrews of Paul’s day felt similarly, but not because they had the strongest military forces.  They felt important because they had the law.  They trusted in their own ability to order the world through their following the law.  But look at where Paul puts his trust.  He puts it his knowing the Lord, Jesus Christ.  We can’t build a world of peace with the sword.  Peace does not come through strength, but meekness.  It comes when Christians are prepared to lose and to sacrifice everything else in order to follow Christ.  Paul’s example points us to this truth.  He, better than most every Jew of his day, could lean on his credentials and trust in his own merit.  He was a highly intellectual man, having better in the schools than anyone else, he had sat at the feet of Gamaliel.  But to be a Christian, Paul gave all this up, considered it garbage, and became a fool to those around him.  He lost it all, but gained the only thing that mattered.  Christian, where do you place your trust in bringing about the covenant blessings that God promises?  Do you place it in Washington DC?  Do you place it in the cockpit of an F-22?  Of course you don’t.  The world cannot understand that power is not found in politics or military might.  It is in Christ’s righteousness alone where we find our hope.  As we take our eyes off our own strength, we are able to stop trusting in what the world offers.  Trust in Christ. Press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

Catechism–(Q) Where do you place your trust? (A) The surpassing worth of knowing Jesus Christ our Lord.

Discussion–Is America exceptional?  Discuss ways that other nations have trusted in their own strength and have fallen from the world stage.

Prayer–Father God, we count everything as rubbish apart from knowing you.  Thank you for calling us to your son, that we may put our faith and trust in him alone as we continue to strive for the goal of your glory.  We pray to you, Father, in the name of your Son, Jesus Christ, by the awakening of your Holy Spirit. Amen.

Contributed by Michael Fenimore

Year C – Second Sunday in Lent – Philippians 3:17-4:1

Text–Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us.  For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ.  Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and their glory is their shame, with minds set on earthly things.  But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.  Therefore, my brothers, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved. [Philippians 3:17-4:1 ESV]

Summary–In Acts 16:12, Philippi is described as a Roman colony.  It was a Rome in miniature, a reproduction on a small scale of the imperial city.  Its citizens naturally took great pride in being Roman.  Moreover, they enjoyed all the rights and privileges of being a citizen in the greatest empire of its day.  They were freed from having to pay tribute to Rome (a kind of income tax).  They were allowed to govern themselves without having to report to a provincial governor.  In return, Philippi provided a safeguard to Roman lands and spread Rome’s dominance throughout Macedonia.  The Roman citizen had much to boast about.  Paul was one of these favored citizens of Rome.  But where did this position get him?  It got him into a prison cell.  While writing to the Philippian Church, Paul sat in a Roman prison awaiting the verdict from the Roman emperor on whether he would be sentenced to death or be allowed to live.  But Paul was not concerned with this judgment.  He warned the Philippian church not to rely on their citizenship in Rome, but to imitate Paul and look to their citizenship in heaven in standing firm in the Lord.

Insight–As you walk in this life, there are many paths before you.  You must choose which way you will go.  Standing still is not an option for you.  You must choose one.  But how will you know which path is the correct one?  Which path will lead you to the heavenly father and his celestial kingdom and which will lead you to destruction?  They all look pretty similar but how do you know which way to go?  In our text, Paul gives us the directions on how to pick the right path.  Paul commands us to join with others who are following his example (vv 3:17).  Look to how he puts it in the preceding verse.  He states, “let us hold true” (vv 3:16)  which in the Greek is another way of saying, “let us walk in a row”.  This row is a row of houses, a squad of soldiers, a wall of trees, and so on.  This word implies an orderly and harmonious arrangement.

But what ways can we stand together in a row?  One way is to remember the season of lent.  Our church fathers arranged the Christian calendar in such a way as to remember the life, death and resurrection of our Lord, Jesus Christ.  For many thousands of years, christians walked by the light of this calendar as a way to follow Him and to imitate His life.  As we follow the same calendar, and remember the same days of feasting and fasting, we are formed more and more into a row of houses, soldiers, trees.  Time builds community.    Following the season of lent provides an avenue for fellow Christians to cooperate in common Christian community.  It helps us take our eyes off ourselves and helps us remember Christ’s sacrifice for us.  We are then able to avoid walking with those who only think of themselves and where their next meal will come from.  This is what Paul warns us about in walking with those whose god is their belly.  Don’t lose sight of where they are headed.  Many look only at what brings them pleasure in the moment.  But when they do that, they are steered off the path and are led to destruction.  Paul commands the church to stand firm in the straight path of the Lord and avoid at all costs the crooked path of the evildoer and enemy of the cross of Christ (vv 4:1).  Remember during this season of lent what Christ did for us and where he is taking us.  He is coming again, stand firm in the faith and look to Him for your salvation.

Catechism–(Q) How do I imitate Paul? (A) By standing firm in the Lord

Prayer–Almighty God, ruler of nations, help us to keep on your path to your glorious city.  Father, give us clear understanding of our privileges as your citizens in the heavenly realm.  Lord, grant us wisdom in who we walk with, that we would walk in a manner worthy of the calling that you have granted us through your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen.

Contributed by Michael Fenimore

Year C – Third Sunday of Advent – Philippians 4:4-7

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious 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.
(Philippians 4:4-7 ESV)

Summary—It is important for us to remember that the whole history of the early Church, and indeed all the New Testament epistles, can only be understood in the light of the Spirit of God pouring forth upon that infant Church in Jerusalem.  Hold Pentacost firmly in your mind as you read this exhortation by Paul.  Only by the power of the Spirit was the early church able to joyfully respond to their lowly situation.  Only by the same Spirit are we able today to follow Paul’s command in this week’s text.  He commands us to live a life filled with joy in all situations.  The Christian life is a celebration where rejoicing is not only experienced, it is commanded.   In our text today, Paul corrects wrong-headed views of the Christian walk.  Rather than worry, stress or bicker between fellow believers, Paul tells the church to rejoice for the Lord is at hand.  Because of this, we can have peace with the Triune God of the universe.  Paul’s reason for writing this letter was to teach the Philippian Church how to rejoice in every circumstance that they faced.

Insight—Is your life filled with joy?  Are you continually rejoicing in all things, even that less-than-perfect geometry grade that you received last week?  What about that time you lost your favorite ear ring, did you feeling full of joy at that point?  Paul tells us in this section of his letter to the Philippians that we are to rejoice even when your brother won’t get out of the bathroom.  We are commanded to rejoice even when you lose your homework, or your job.  We are told to continally thank God for every situation that we face, even the bad ones.   And yet, we find this command hard to do.  Why?  It may be because we don’t understand the reason for our joy.  

Do you take for granted how bad off you would have been if Jesus had not come down from heaven and been born of a woman?  Do you not see that without Christ, you would be an enemy of God, and without hope?  But Christ did come down.  He was born of a woman and did live a sinless life.  He was nailed to a cross for you and for me.  You have been freed from sin and wrath of God, from eternal damnation and from the sting of death through the blood of Christ.   With this in mind, take heed to Paul’s command, REJOICE!  Rejoice in the Lord for he alone can give you peace.  He alone is worthy of our joy.  You may lose everything in this world, but not your soul or your eternal destiny, nor the glory that awaits you in Christ’s second coming.  These things are above your circumstances.  Rejoice in the lord always, in life, in death, in sins or failure, whatever may be happening to you, whatever your circumstances, “Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say, Rejoice.”    

Child Catechism—Q: Why must we rejoice? A: Because Christ saved us from our sins.

Discussion—When you begin to worry about this life, what are some ways to reflect on what Jesus has saved you from?

Prayer—Father God in Heaven, you are worthy of our praise.  Let all your creation praise you, let all the earth shout forth praises worthy of your honor and glory. We rejoice in the salvation brought to us by your son.  We fall down in wonder, with unspeakable happiness that you came to save us.  We pray that you would kindle Godly joy in us through every season of our lives.  We ask this in name of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen. 

Contributed by Mike Fenimore

Year C – Second Sunday of Advent – Philippians 1:3-11

I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel. For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus. And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God. (Philippians 1:3-11)

Summary—As he wrote this letter, Paul sat in a prison cell, awaiting his fate from the Roman emperor. This tyrant would either show Paul mercy and free him, or he would convict him of treason against Rome and have him killed.  From this cell, we get today’s text.  Paul, in this section, thanks God with a heart filled to the brim with joy for his Philippian brothers and sisters in Christ.  Here we get a great example from the apostle on how to pray in any situation.

Insight—What would you do if you were locked away in a smelly prison with no hope of escape and little hope of freedom?  Would you fall on your knees and ask God for help?  Would you cry out to Him for rescue?  That’s not what Paul did.  He didn’t care what the emperor was going to do with him.  Rather, he cared what the King of Glory had already done for him and how God was building up the believers in Philippi more and more in faith.  Paul’s prayer teaches us that we are to come to God with more than urgent calls for help with our immediate needs.  Notice two reasons why Paul prayed like he did.  For one thing, he understood that his calling was more important than his circumstance.  Paul was called to take the good news of Jesus Christ to the gentiles.  The Philippian church was his first stop on his missionary journey to Europe.  As they prayed for Paul, as they gave what they could to keep his ministry going, Paul could thank God with joy for their participation in this mission.  He knew that no prison cell could stop what God was doing in his church.  When you pray, do you look to your own struggles first, or do you see how God is using your church to extend his kingdom to the nations? 

There is a another reason why Paul prayed like this.  He trusted God to come through on His promises.  God started a good work in the Philippian Church and He will complete it to the end.  Jesus Christ is working a good work in you and is making you more and more like himself.  He promises you that he will finish what he started.  This is our hope in the advent season.  He promises that he will come back a second time to get us and finish what he started.  Let your prayer life reflect this hope.   Pray in all things with thanksgiving and joy.    

Child Catechism—Q: How did Paul teach us to pray? A: With thanksgiving and joy.

Discussion—What situation do you think would be too horrible that would cause you to pray without thanksgiving and joy? 

Prayer— Father in heaven, teach us how to pray with glad hearts and thankful minds.  Let us see more clearly how you are extending your kingdom and give us willing hearts to rejoice at all times.  We rejoice in your Goodness.  We rejoice in your faithfulness.  We ask all these things in the name of your glorious son, Jesus Christ, Amen.

Contributed by Mike Fenimore