4/17/2019 10:36:22 AM
Reflection: The First Response to Christ
The Bible wasn't written in chronological order. No one person sat down, unrolled a blank scroll, and started writing with Genesis 1:1. It took centuries to pull together the Bible. Most books were written at different times and in different places, by different people. We don't know much about the process that made the Bible happen but there's a general sense that editors pulled together different stories and written texts to form the Bible God wanted us to have. The editors, prayerfully and faithfully, used the words God gave them to show God's love to a lot of different communities. Scholars have tried to find the earliest pieces of the Bible; those texts that might preserve the first draft of the stories as they were first told. Some of the stories are ancient, meant to be spoken around campfires instead of being read from a book. Not everyone agrees about which piece of Scripture came first. Yet it's possible that the pieces of the Bible that are the oldest are all songs. From Miriam's song in the Exodus, Deborah's in Judges, and maybe even some of the Psalms - the earliest pieces of scripture are not sentences and paragraphs. Rather, the first words that spoke to God's people were poetry and songs. When we encounter God, it seems our first response is to just sing.
Today's letter from Paul to the Philippians 2:5-11 contains one of the oldest pieces of Christian scripture we have. Paul is quoting a hymn, one possibly already being sung by Christian communities before he began his missionary work. In a sense, this might be the earliest Christian writing we have, beyond the sayings of Jesus recorded in the gospels. When the small communities first gathered in dining rooms while sharing a meal, they did more than talk about God: they sung about God, too. And this hymn, one of the first hymns in our Christian hymn book, is centered on Jesus doing an almost impossible thing: Jesus chose to be one of us. It might not shock you to hear a pastor say Jesus was human (and also fully divine). As Christians, we've said this for centuries. But if we take that statement seriously, do we realize just how shocking that is? How many times, in your life, have you tried to not be human? How much energy have we spent not being ourselves? How often do we try to forget, ignore, or push aside the situations, experiences, and emotions that take away from our life? If you knew all the junk that comes with being a human being - the pain, suffering, rejection, sadness, and harm we cause ourselves and each other - would you choose to be one of us? And would you do that even if you didn't have to?
As we enter this Holy Week, we will spend time meditating on Jesus' death. But we can also use this week to think about Jesus' choice. Jesus gave up what he was entitled to so that he could love you. Jesus emptied himself of divinity because God's love demanded nothing less. This is a week where we remember not only who Jesus is and what Jesus did. We also remember how Jesus made a choice - and how everything changed.
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