Jesus Requires An Answer – Dcn. John Stanley

Dcn. John Stanley’s Homily September 27, 2020

“The Gospel reading is powerful and it is straightforward and I’ll get to that, but today I want to reflect on that second reading, that reading that is truly one of the treasures in the Bible so rich in theology. Paul begins by exhorting the people of Philippi to turn from their division and he pleads for unity. He says, ‘Do nothing out of selfishness, but regard others as more important than yourselves.’ Paul wants the community to be unified in attitude and the mind of Jesus. He then memorializes, puts into words, a hymn that had been sung or chanted for several years. Scholars believe that it was a hymn that was sung perhaps as early as the 30’s, just a few years after the resurrection and chanted within the Christian communities. No doubt this hymn was a source of unity for the earliest Christians and it begins, ‘Though he was in the form of God, Jesus did not deem equality with God something to be grasped.’ Now contrast this with another biblical figure, with Adam. For Adam was made in the image and the likeness of God, but Adam was not divine. He was human, but Adam did deem equality with God something to be grasped at. He tried to seize the likeness of God and be like God and this was original sin. It was the sin of Adam, the one who is not God tries to be God and then everything comes apart. Fellow sinners, that’s what we all try to do. That’s what sin is, trying to be God. And the hymn continues, ‘Rather he emptied himself taking the form of a slave and became man.’ For this is God’s plan for our salvation. The all powerful, infinite God who created the universe out of nothing, in His divine plan for our salvation he doesn’t play the God card, but rather he empties himself of his divinity and becomes the new Adam in order to halt and reverse the tide waters of sin, disharmony and division that resulted in Adam grasping at his attempts to make himself God. Our salvation was a free gift of God by him emptying himself, being born of a woman, being born in abject poverty in a stable and becoming one of us in all ways except sin. So how much did God empty himself? Well the hymn continues, ‘He humbled himself becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.’ So what does godliness look like, power, glory, dominion? Well I suppose so, but true godliness looks like that criminal nailed to a cross emptying himself, pouring himself out for love of you and me. For my brothers and sisters, it was through the humanity of Jesus Christ, the new Adam, that we are redeemed.

So now let us turn to our Gospel: as Jesus does so often in the Gospels, he presents a choice. The Kingdom of God is at hand and what are you going to do about it? The choice is between the first Adam or the second Adam. Are we going to walk the path of self aggrandizement, puffing up our ego, seeking power, wealth, prestige or are we to follow the new Adam becoming divine through humility by emptying ourselves and being conformed unto love? Notice that Jesus in our Gospel doesn’t care a wit about lip service for words or traditions. Who in today’s Gospel is doing the will of the Father? Well, the one who actually does something, so don’t rely on words, on traditions, on titles, those externals, rather make a decision. Make a decision in your heart. Decide today for there’s only one question. Are we going to continue to walk the path of the old Adam or are we going to empty ourselves and walk in the path of self-giving love? It is the question and it is the only question that matters and Jesus requires an answer.”