Church of England Diocese of Leeds Kirkby Ravensworth

A SERMON from Rev Antony for the 16th Sunday after Trinity 27th September 2020

Sixteenth Sunday after Trinity 2020 Philippians 2:1-13)

I ask you the question, what does it mean to you, to be a Christian?

This is a real pressing question that we all need to look at. It’s a question that has been asked for over two thousand years. What does it mean to you to be a Christian?

Clearly there will be many answers to this question. As I said, the question goes back to the very beginning of Christianity.

But in answering that question we first have to look at it in the reality of Jesus and who he is for us today here and now.

This Christ who we say we follow is a figure from the past but he is also a figure who comes to us here and now, so the question we are answering is about how Jesus becomes part of our life today. How does our relationship with Jesus change who we are here today?

Being a Christian doesn’t mean following Jesus’ teachings as a kind of moral guidebook. Being a Christian is about being transformed in the presence of Christ. Becoming a new person in Christ being fired up for Christ. Being transformed by Christ

In the reading from Philippians, Paul gives his own answer to the question. what does it mean to you, to be a Christian?

Paul is writing this letter from prison, to the Christian community in Philippi.

He begins his letter by saying, “I thank my God every time I remember you, constantly praying with joy in every one of my prayers for all of you, because of your sharing in the gospel from the first day until now.”

In other words the Philippians are clearly a people who are passionate about their lives in Christ.

Judging by what Paul writes, the Philippians are faithful in their dedication to the good news of Christ. For this reason, Paul commends their faith, their good works, their sharing in the grace of God.

When we ask the question “What does it mean to be a Christian?” then perhaps the Philippians are a good example of what being a Christian may look like for us.

Paul know that the Philippians were standing firm in the spirit of Christ, Standing side by side with one mind for the faith of Christ.” He knows they are faithful but he still offers instruction and encouragement to them.

He reminding them, what it means to be a Christian.

“Make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others.”

Paul is telling the Philippians how they should behave, what a Christian community should look like. Christians should be united in love. Christians should act out of humility and concern for others, not from selfishness or ambition. But out of love for God and out of their response to God.

But we all know how difficult this way of living is. We’ve all seen the dynamics of Christians having different opinions of how things should be. So is Christianity unattainable.

The reality of Christianity is not about getting along with those who may differ in opinion. What Paul is saying is we should strive to live in the mind of Christ, be of one mind,” “Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus.”

Paul doesn’t expect a group of people to suddenly be able to agree with each other on everything. we’re not capable of attaining that kind of unity by our own efforts. But Paul isn’t asking the Philippians to be of one mind with one another—he’s asking the Philippians to be united in the mind of Christ.

The distinction here is important. Because it signifies that even with differences, we can still become a little more Christ like in the way we respond to difference of opinion.

By allowing God to work in us, through Jesus, we can work for God’s good purpose.”

God is at work in each of us today, in this congregation, God if we let him, can change the dynamics of our life . God is doing in us what we cannot do on our own but we must let him in.

So what does it mean to be a Christian?

It means that we let God work in us. It means God is transforming us into the people he wants us to be. It means that God is giving us the same mind that was in Christ Jesus.

Being a Christian isn’t something we are able to do for ourselves or by ourselves. Being a Christian is letting God transform us.

We should be united in the mind of Christ: the same Christ who, “though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death—even death on a cross.”

Jesus died so we could live.

This is what it means to be a Christian. And because of what God has done and is doing through Jesus, we are able, like the Philippians, to work for salvation.

To act in humility and love. To care for others. All made possible through Jesus. Amen.