Summary: Third in a series on the Purpose Driven Life
THE FOURTH SUNDAY IN LENT
March 21, 2004
St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church
The Rev. M. Anthony Seel , Jr.
“Created to Become Like Christ”
Let us pray.
Heavenly Father, we bow in your presence. May your Word be our rule, Your Spirit our teacher, and your greater glory our supreme concern, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
If you follow a small gravel road until you see a small white church, you’re almost there. On the far side of the church is a hand-painted sign that says “Daffodil Garden.” Take the path past the sign and the sight might just take your breath away. It’s as if someone took a great vat of gold and poured it over the mountain peak and slopes.
The flowers are planted in majestic swirling patterns – great ribbons and swaths of deep orange, white, lemon yellow, salmon pink, saffron and butter yellow. Each different colored variety was planted as a group so that it circled and flowed like a river with its own unique hue. There are five acres of flowers.
On the porch of a well-kept A-frame house is a poster. “Answers to Questions I Know You Are Asking” is the headline. The first answer is 50,000 bulbs. The second is “One at a time, by one woman. Two hands, two feet and very little brain.” The third answer is “Begun in 1958.”
One woman planted 50,000 bulbs one at a time over nearly fifty years of time. Year after year, she kept planting bulbs until she had created five acres of ineffable magnificence, beauty and inspiration. One bulb at a time. Year after year. Call it the Daffodil Principle. What might we be able to accomplish if we worked at something consistently over fifty years of our lives?
In our second reading, the Apostle Paul writes about the pre-existence, life and death of Jesus Christ. He shows how Jesus plunged into the soil of humanity and became like us. His mission was to give away His life for others. He helped many bloom and grow, and then He died on the cross. After this, He was exalted by God and given a name above all other names. Paul’s point is found in verse 5: “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus.” Let’s begin at verse 1.
vv. 1-2 So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.
The Christians at Philippi were facing significant opposition during the last half of the first century, so the Apostle Paul writes to them to challenge them to stay firm in their faith. He begins chapter two of Philippians with some words of support. Some scholars believe that this epistle dates from 60-62 AD, the last days of Paul’s life, when Paul was under house arrest in Rome. These verses describe how a Christian is to live in the world.
In the face of the opposition that the Philippians face, Paul writes about “encouragement in Christ.” J.B. Lightfoot translates these first words of chapter 2 as “If then your experiences in Christ appeal to you with any force.” The idea here is that there is a power in your life in Christ that persuades you that the Christian faith is worth holding onto, even or especially in times of crisis.
“Any comfort in love,” points to the love of Christ, and “participation in the Spirit” to the power of God that binds Christians into one united fellowship. The “affection and sympathy” referred to here is the tenderness and compassion of Christ for His followers.
All this is intended by God to contribute to the church being of “the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.” The power of God in the community of God’s people brings unity. I like what Rick Warren has to say about Christian unity on day 21 of The Purpose Driven Life. Warren writes
Unity is so important that the New Testament gives more
attention to it than to either heaven or hell. God deeply
desires that we experience oneness and harmony with
Unity is the soul of fellowship. Destroy it, and you rip
the heart out of Christ’s Body. It is the essence, the
core, of how God intends for us to experience life
together in his church. Our supreme model for unity
is the Trinity. The Father, Son and Holy Spirit are
completely unified as one. God himself is the
highest example of sacrificial love, humble other-
centeredness, and perfect harmony. [p. 160]
Warren’s words are a perfect lead-in for verses 3 and 4, where Paul says