Sermon from April 14, 2019

Let the Same Mind Be in You
Rev. Thomas Cary Kinder

United Church of Strafford, Vermont
April 14, 2019
Palm and Passion Sunday, Sixth Sunday in Lent
Philippians 2:5-8; Luke 19:29-42; 21:37-23:56

Shock, horror and grief came first, and then the question why?  Why did he have to die?

You can read more than one theory in the Bible.  Today the Jewish concept of temple sacrifice still dominates in most churches—that Jesus died to atone for our individual sins so we may be saved and go to heaven.

This theory is not what is taught by leading theologians in scholarly seminaries and it does not even make sense for the loving God that Jesus himself taught.

Rather than being about an inhumane, torturous, mortal sacrifice that a wrathful, bloodthirsty deity demands of his one and only son in order to forgive our mostly puny individual sins and grant us a ticket to heaven but only if we believe and otherwise we go to hell (how could we ever have thought this of the God who is Love?), the Passion story can be seen as a different kind of sacrifice—as a model of laying down our lives for the love of others, or as the extreme to which we need to go to confront the evil of injustice and transform a society gone astray, or as a metaphor for losing our old self in order to gain a truer, more evolved, more Christ-like self.

But our theories are only as enlightened as our spiritual and psychological perspective.  The Apostle Paul wrote in First Corinthians 13: “When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child.”  Paul urged us to grow up to the most mature spiritual perspective.  He said, “Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus.” We will not fully understand what Jesus did until we have his mind and heart and can see the oneness of all Creation and hold it all in unconditional love.  This developmental growth is exactly what Jesus was trying to help us gain.

The slogan of his entire ministry was “Repent, for the realm of God is at hand.” Remember, the word repent is a poor translation of the New Testament Greek word metanoia.  Metanoia means evolving beyond the level where our heart, mind and spirit are now, opening to a new way of seeing and being.

Whatever else the Passion story is about, it must be about Jesus trying to get us to evolve our hearts and minds into the children of God that we were created to be, and to evolve human civilization into the realm of God that earth was created to be, following the Golden Rule and ethic of love.

We desperately need this change of consciousness to solve the problems that threaten human civilization.  So how can the Passion story help us?

I think the main way is to set aside the question of why and go back to our response of longing and grief.  Longing and grief are the catalyst–they lead us to the path we need to take.

The Christian writer J. K. Rowling gives a beautiful image for this in her masterpiece, The Deathly Hallows, a book that has profound insights to offer about crucifixion and resurrection.  On the surface it is a fantasy novel about a magical world, but in its depths it is about metanoia and transforming human civilization to become the realm of God on earth.

At one point in the story Harry Potter’s friend Ron abandons him, leaving Harry with Ron’s true love, Hermione, to continue on the journey to defeat the force of evil.  Ron soon regrets leaving, but he has no idea where Harry and Hermione have gone.  He grieves and longs to be back with them.  Then one day he hears Hermione say his name, as real as could be, and in that poignant moment of most intense grief and longing he knows what to do to find them.  A magical light fills Ron’s heart, and he knows it will guide his way.  Not only does he get back to Harry and Hermione, but he comes back changed.  He has a new heart and new mind.  He is still Ron, but he has evolved beyond his former selfishness and fear to a place where he can lay down his life for love.

Ron finds his way through grief and longing by magic in the book.  We find our way through prayer in real life—the Spirit is our magic.  The Anglican priest Cynthia Bourgeault talks in her book, Centering Prayer and Inner Awakening, about a compass that we each have in our spiritual heart that points us to God’s magnetic North.  A light in our heart guides our feet when we quiet ourselves and open to it.

The disciples did to Jesus what Ron did to Harry, or worse.  They abandoned, denied or betrayed him.  Yet like Ron, all but Judas found their way back through their longing and grief.  They returned with more of the mind of Christ.  They went on to lay down their lives for love as Jesus did.  They let his Spirit transform them, and then they transformed the world around them.

The church at its best encourages us to grieve over the violence and injustice we see, and to long for the realm of God on earth.  The church leads us to the path to that realm and teaches us the spiritual tools we need to find our way.  The church has brought us St. Francis and Pope Francis, Mother Teresa and Dorothy Day, Martin Luther King Jr. and William Sloane Coffin, Danette Harris and Joey Hawkins, countless saints who have found the way through longing and grief to show us the mind of Christ and realm of God in action.

This year our longing and grief have entered a new dimension.  We can no longer live in avoidance or denial of how human civilization has crucified the natural world, including ourselves.

We need to let ourselves grieve.  We need to long to have the mind of Christ that can see the way through the hell we are making to an evolutionary leap forward, a cultural metanoia, a resurrection into a new humanity living in harmony as a blessing to all creation.  We need to hold up that beautiful vision for all to see and long for it so much we are willing to lay down our lives to make it come to pass.

Let us go into our hearts now and seek the light there in the midst of our grief, the inner compass that can point the way, teaching us how to see the world anew and how to work the Christ-like miracle we need.  Let us pray a silent, wordless, contemplative prayer, opening ourselves to God’s transforming action…


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