Summary: Year C. 2nd Sunday of Lent March 11, 2001
Text: Philippians 3: 17- 4:1
Year C. 2nd, Sunday of Lent
March 11th, 2001
Lord of the Lake Lutheran Church
Web page http://lordofthelake.org
By The Rev. Jerry Morrissey, Esq., Pastor
Heavenly Father empower each of us here at Lord of the Lake Lutheran Church to imitate your Son Jesus Christ in all that we do. Amen.
Title: “Standing firm in the Lord.”
Philippi was a small city on the main highway East and West, a full day’s walk from Neapolis, a city on the coast. Itinerants of all types –philosophers, tourists, news-bearers, entertainers, fugitives, etc.- would easily and often visit. Visitation by outsiders was not only the main source of news from the outside world but also the main source of ideas. These travelers were what television is to us today. They would tell things and relate visions of other perspectives. People loved to talk to itinerants and question them. Because they were sources of novelty, people, especially young people, would become enamored of them and want to imitate them or, at least, identify with what they were saying. They would stimulate the imagination and function much the way movies and TV do in our lives.
Paul warns against being bamboozled by such itinerants, passing through, passing fancies. He draws three contrasts in these five verses: First, between friends and enemies of the cross of Christ; second, between those who set their minds on earthly things and those devoted to heavenly things; and between our present limited bodies and the “glorified body.” Paul recognizes the propensity of people to imitate others. So, he says, if one must imitate, then imitate him and others like him. Why? Because he imitates Christ. The idea of imitating someone who pops into town one day or pops up on a TV or Internet screen is risky and, ultimately, bad. Imitate people whom you have lived with and seen tested over a long period of time rather than the latest thing to come down the pike or the information highway.
In verse seventeen, “join with others in being imitators of me”: This is an awesome claim. Paul is so confident in himself that he does not teach as many others do. He does not say, “Do as I say, but not as I do.” He says, “Imitate me.” That means, “Do as I do.” Not a whole lot of folks can recommend that to others. But he does not stop there. He says,” Or imitate others who imitate me.” We would expect he would have said something like he said in 1
Corinthians 11: 1, “Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ.” That is, of course, what he means. In fact, he did the same thing in 1 Corinthians 4: 16 where he says, “Be imitators of me,” but omits any reference to his own model, Christ. Paul is saying to those prone to follow anybody who “sounds” good or “looks” good that they should follow people who “do” good, like himself, or Timothy or anyone else who is faithful to the crucified and risen Lord.
In verse eighteen, “many…conduct themselves as enemies of the cross of Christ”: These folks were pretty much everywhere in the churches Paul founded. Under the influence of Hellenistic philosophy these were people who adopted Christianity and then adapted it to their own preferences. These were the same as the “spirit-people” found in Corinth. They believed they had the fullness of salvation and that their bodies did not matter. Thus, they could sin in their bodies but it would matter not to the Lord. They were spiritually and morally superior to others, “elite,” “enlightened.” They were so free in Christ that they were not bound by sexual restrictions. They were so free that they were not only not bound by the food restrictions of Judaism, they were not bound by any food restrictions. They could indulge as much as they wished. In their distorted perspective, their bodily actions had no effect on their spiritual state or status.
In verses nineteen, “destruction…stomach…shame…earthly things”: Speaking from the eternal or heavenly perspective, Paul describes what is really going on in the lives of those, enemies of the cross, who discount the importance of the laws of nature both biological and psychological. They might think they are doing what feels right by indulging their impulses, but they are really engaging in self-destructive, self-sabotaging behavior. It will catch up with them in the end. If their hungers, symbolized by “stomach,” tell them what to do and they engage in drugs, foods, sex, money-sprees at whim, then these are what God should be to them and is not. These are their “God.” What they claim to be proud of – “I drank so much…had so much sex…spent so much…”- is really shaming them, destroying them and, worse, tempting others to imitate them. At final judgment they will be “shamed” not in the sense of “embarrassed,” but proven wrong and lost. For now, their minds are totally fixated on the present moment and what their feelings are announcing, even shouting, must be done, indulged in, paid homage to.