Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Homily for Palm Sunday

Homily for
Palm Sunday
April 12, 1987
Phil 2: 6-11
Holy Cross, Fairfield, Conn.

This weekend (April 12-13) I celebrated the Palm Sunday liturgy 1st with Boys Scouts and then at St. Vincent's Hospital, preaching both times without notes, briefly, on Matthew's version of the Passion.  Herewith an old homily on the epistle reading, which is the same every year.  If you're interested, you'll find the complete A-B-C cycle covered in homilies in the archive (2011-2013).

“Your attitude must be Christ’s” (Phil 2: 6).

In our times, it’s often hard to know how a Christian should act.  It seems to me that it’s harder now to act like a Christian than it has been for many hundreds of years—not because our fallen human nature has changed but because our culture has changed so drastically and is so much less supportive of Christian values.

But we have Christ’s example to imitate.  St. Paul instructs us to take on the same attitude as Christ.  An attitude is a state of mind and feeling that disposes us to act in a certain way.

What was Christ’s attitude?  He was humble and obedient.  “He emptied himself” (Phil 2:7), put aside the prerogatives and claims of his divine nature and joined us—not as a ruler, not as one of the rich and famous, not as one of the great “somebodies”—no, as a servant:  his Father’s servant, and our servant, ready to die if our human selfishness and malice should command him to, even to die a criminal’s death on a cross, stripped of clothes, friends, hope, and dignity.

But this attitude of humility and obedience, of service, of love of God and for us, produced the greatest turnaround in human history.  “God highly exalted him” and made him our Lord (Phil 2:9-11).  Humility, obedience, service:  these are the nature not only of Christian life in general, but of Christian authority in particular.

In his letter to the Romans, Paul portrays Christ as the 2d Adam (5:12-19).  The 1st Adam sinned when he tried to become like God and disobeyed God’s command (Gen 3).  Christ obeyed and in his human nature was raised to lordship over all creation “to the glory of God the Father” (Phil 2:11).

Christian authority is certainly a timely topic.  It seems that an awful lot of people are screaming for a share in it.  From the tone of their complaints, their demands, and their decrees, one might well ask whether it’s Christian authority they want, the authority of serving others in humility and obedience, or whether it’s power they’re after—either to keep it or to get hold of it, as the case may be.

But let’s come down to us.  Is Christian authority, the authority of humble service an issue for us?

Yes, it is.  In every household there’s authority.  Let it reflect that attitude which was Christ’s; let it be a self-emptying, a self-giving authority.

Some of you are employers, or managers, or teachers, or babysitters.  You wield authority.  What kind of authority is it?  Christian authority isn’t pansy authority, as Christ made clear on more than one occasion and as his moral demands on us still made clear.  But it is an authority of consideration for people and of personal integrity, for instance—practical ways of being humble, obedient servants in business, school, home; practical ways of putting God 1st in our lives, God’s children 2d, and ourselves 3d.

We’d have to look pretty far for a way of life that doesn’t have dozens of opportunities every week for us to imitate Christ’s attitude, to empty ourselves in order that God may fill us with his own glory, in order that God’s glory may be reflected through us.

God bless you.

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