Aloha Friday Message – August 30, 2013 – Blessed be the Tie

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Read it online here, please.

Philippians 2:1-2 – Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose.

Blest be the tie that binds
Our hearts in Christian love;
The fellowship of kindred minds
Is like to that above.

Before our Father’s throne
We pour our ardent prayers;
Our fears, our hopes, our aims are one
Our comforts and our cares.

Aloha nui loa, Beloved. Do you know this hymn? Hopefully you’ve clicked on that link up there and listened to the tune as you read through the words. At that link there is also a brief statement about the origin of this lovely poem. The main thrust of this hymn is the concept of community – Christian community. As you read through the lyrics, you come to understand that the “tie that binds” operates as both person-to-person and we-to-God. This is the backbone of the Church through the “fellowship of the Holy Spirit.” Paul used the word koinonia {koy-nohn-ee’-ah} κοινωνία. Here’s a quote from a recent post: “Here are some words that come to mind when we see the word “fellowship” in Scripture: Communion, companionship, friendship, community, sharing, κοινωνία (koinonía) – in short, spiritual union by intimate participation.” It makes me think of a group hug that includes a group prayer. Sounds nice, huh?

You’d think it would be easy to do that – fellowship with one another. Paul thought so, too, but he knew that sometimes our human nature makes that difficult, especially in matters of faith. Note how he stresses the importance of preventing divisions: make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. Immediately after this passage, Paul’s letter contains what might have been a familiar hymn. See verses 6-11. The stanzas of that hymn describe the way Salvation came to us – through the humble obedience of Christ for which God granted his Son great glory. In verses 6-8 each verb used points to Christ. In verses 9-11 each verb used points to God. Christ’s willingness to completely empty himself of his Divine prerogatives to the point of a horrific and shameful death resulted in his exaltation by and in everything in creation. In verses 1-5, Paul exhorts the Philippians to “have the same attitude toward one another that Christ Jesus had.” He tells them, “you should, in humility, be moved to treat one another as more important than yourself.” And how is that done? How do we get there? By being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. Two of those phrases just jump off the page for me.

The first is maintaining the same love. “Love one another as I have loved you.” That “big-bomb” understanding goes back to Christ’s command. We are to seek a transcendent love in and for each other, a love that is identical to his Love for us.

YOUR LOVE FOR EACH OTHER ≡ MY LOVE FOR YOU

We are to be bound together with love exchanged with each other and held together in the Love we exchange with God. That is supposed to be the antidote for dissent; we know through experience that sometimes the antidote is ineffectual. I’m going to give you some links from the Epistles that mention division. Romans 16:17, 1 Corinthians 11:16-19, 1 Corinthians 1:10-13, Galatians 5:19-23. Even if you don’t follow the links to see what Paul said about divisions, you know what the look like, what they feel like, and how they get there – through our own self-righteousness (although we often blame it on others). We all know that we are doing the best we can; it’s those other louts who are messing things up.

That is not what our conscience says, though. We know when we are unloving because we feel unlovely. In Chapter 5 of G. K. Chesterson’s 1910 book What’s Wrong with the World, he states, “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried.” Now, I used the term “self-righteousness” so I want to explain why I think that’s where the trouble begins. To be righteous is to be virtuous, morally right, decent, free from guilt or sin, and in compliance with divine law. Righteousness is the observance of ethical conduct in deference to the law to the point of being guiltless when judged by other and by God. When we are self-righteous, we are our own judge and jury; God and all others are left out of the assessment of our esteemed qualities of our conduct. By contrast, all earthlings are “as filthy rags,” while we are the finest of linens. We fall for the oldest lie in The Book: “… your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” LIAR! We were already like GOD! God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.This leads us to our second text for today. We are supposed to be united in spirit. Are we? Are we of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose? When we strive to be the winner in the “better-than-you” contest, we lose big-time! We give way to our pride – just like Adam and Eve – and we wall ourselves in and others out – often pushing God outside the gate, too. Consider this from C. S. Lewis in Mere Christianity: “Pride gets no pleasure out of having something, only out of having more of it than the next man… It is the comparison that makes you proud: the pleasure of being above the rest. Once the element of competition is gone, pride is gone.”

For what “prize” are we competing? Why, it is to be the first, the best, the most important, the holiest, the most belovéd disciple ever. OK, so maybe that is  a bit over the top, but contrast that with what Paul said: Be humble. Agree with each other. Agree with the Gospel. In humility accept others as being better than yourself. Remind you of anything or anyone? “The last shall be first and the first shall be last.” “Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.” Is that what we want? When we pray, do we present petitions or a To-Do list? When we are The Church, are we in the Body of Christ, or are we pushing our own agenda? Do we have the attitude of gratitude, of reconciliation, of equanimity? WWJD? If your friend, family member, or even your pastor humiliates you, shouldn’t you thank that person? Instead we become defensive and angry, or discouraged and depressed, or withdrawn and willful – the opposite of being united in spirit. We may not always be right, but God help the man who says we are wrong! Looser!

It’s not a contest where some win and some lose. It is a war where righteousness wins and self-righteousness suffers the defeat with the unrighteous. We must repent of our unrighteousness. How can we possibly do that? Simple; we cannot. No human can accomplish this. “With man it is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” We know we are sinners, and we know it’s important to repent; but do we really? When we repent, isn’t it often just a wee-bit of self-deprecation rooted in self-righteousness in a blatant attempt to be excused rather than forgiven? After all, there are certainly worse sinners in this world, some of them right in this church/parish/congregation/neighborhood/room. That is why we need any [and every] encouragement in Christ. We cannot do this on our own, but with him, in him, and through him all things are possible.

Repent, sinner. The End of the World is at hand. You have been bought with a price, and your end is the grasp of the grave. But if there is any consolation of love, it is in loving one another as Christ commanded. Can’t do it? Keep trying. Me, too.

For truly it is sung:

Blessed be the tie that binds
Our hearts in Christian love;
The fellowship of kindred minds
Is like to that above. AAAAAA-MENNNNNN.

Whatever, whenever, wherever, whoever, however, if ever, forever — at your service, Beloved.

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bouncychicken

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About Chick Todd

American Roman Catholic reared as a "Baptiterian" in Denver Colorado.

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