This is the final in a four week series inviting you to dwell in the Word, ponder what it is to be the church, and discern if the spirit is calling us to anything new. Reflect alone, with your household, or with a friend. Send any insights to Alison, or bring them to the congregational conversation on 28 February (details here).
From a young age, we are encouraged to know our own mind and push our own opinion, and winning an argument is often seen as more important than loving. According to the Apostle Paul, however, “Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up. Anyone who claims to know something does not yet have the necessary knowledge; but anyone who loves God is known by God.” (1 Cor. 8:1b-3). He was writing in a context where people were making technically reasonable arguments, yet their conclusions were hurting others; and he argued that even the best theological reasoning meant nothing unless it led to love.
For Paul, and for all of Christ’s followers, love is the ultimate, indeed the only legitimate, way of knowing; and so love becomes the only test when it comes to faithful discernment. No matter how clever the theology, the only decisions which are acceptable to a Christ-centred community are those which care for vulnerable people and build up love overall.
Bear this in mind as you prepare for our church conversation and read the following text. It is from another letter from Paul to a faith community; in it, he urges them to seek the mind of Christ, implicitly over and above individual minds, opinions, ideas and desires. As you listen to the text and dwell in the Word, notice any resistance within yourself to the text; notice also what intrigues you, excites you, or makes you want to know more.
1. PREPARE: Make yourself comfortable. Uncross your legs; relax your body; uncomplicate your heart. Ask God to help you surrender to whatever it is that God wants to do in you or say to or through you. Breathe slowly and deeply in, then out.
2. READ: Read the following passage aloud at least three times through, slowly. Listen carefully. Notice anything which captures your attention.
- If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, 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. Let the same mind be in you all that was in Christ Jesus 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. Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the good reputation of God the Father. Therefore, my beloved ones, just as you all have always obeyed me, not only in my presence, but much more now in my absence, work out your own liberation with reverence and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you all, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure. (Philippians 2:1-13)
3. REFLECT: Allow the passage, a phrase or a single word or image speak to you. What catches your attention? What emotions do you feel? What questions are bubbling up? Reflect in silence.
4. RELATE: Wonder: What are the markers of the mind of Christ? How do you recognize it? When have you seen it emerge from a group? What blocks you from seeking or recognizing it? What is the mind of Christ for Sanctuary now? If you can, have a conversation about this with others.
5. RESPOND: Arising out of your reflection and any discussion, pray. Tell God about anything which has emerged. If you feel called to action, ask God to show you/us the next step. Send any insights to Alison, or bring them to our church conversation on 28 February.
6. REST: Rest now in the Word, who loves you. As you leave this space, if any word, phrase or image persists, carry it with you and let it guide you. If nothing in particular arises, remember this:
- Work out your own liberation.
Because Paul is saying that the responsibility for discerning how to live into Christ’s healing, liberation and culture in this time and place lies with us. It is an awesome task, both exciting and humbling: for it tells us that God trusts us to seek the way of Christ. And so this week, and especially during our conversation this Sunday 28 February, I pray that you and we together will gain greater clarity into the mind of Christ, and greater confidence to act on it.
Emailed to Sanctuary 24 February 2021 © Sanctuary, 2021. Image shows Christ in Silence, Odilon Redon (c. 1897). Public domain.
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