Sermon at St. James Black Mountain 4-14-19

+Porter Taylor

Palm Sunday—4/14/19

Philippians 2:5-11


Let the same mind be in you 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----he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death

The Greek word for EMPTIED is KENOSIS

            It’s surrender—a complete letting go---

            As our Lord says on the Cross, “Not my will but yours”

We are called to go beyond this false self we present to the world

The self that cares about what we own, and how we look, and what people say about us

            And like St Francis---we unburden ourselves

            We throw all our possessions away

We walk away from our carefully constructed ego to ask God to make us new.


There’s a reason we hear the story of entering Jerusalem and ending up at the cross

            At the beginning of HOLY WEEK

We need to know where we are headed and what is required of us to be resurrected


We have to let go of our old mind and put on the mind of Christ

            And it’s a mind that reverses all our conceptions.

            Losing is winning

            Giving is receiving

            Dying is the door to new life.

One of the ancient names for the Church is The School of Love

            Because the only way to put on the mind of Christ is love.

                        Love is the hammer that nails us to the cross

Love is the one thing that will move us beyond our ego

 into another way of seeing and being

Think of the difference between Pilate and the thief on the cross

Pilate is a politician---he takes a poll

            He says to the crowd “I have found no ground for the sentence of death”

                        And yet the “loud shouts that Jesus should be crucified …prevailed”

Pilate condemns Jesus to death to keep his consituancy happy.

            As we often hear --- It’s not personal, just business.


But As Christians we know differently—

-to put on the mind of Christ is completely personal.

            Because love is always personal.

            The criminal on the cross asks Jesus to be remembered—

To be connected and then he finds his home in Paradise

He has emptied himself of his ego----and found communion.


In this time of political slogans and arguments and wrangling

            Let’s remember we don’t’ empty ourselves for political agendas

We empty ourselves for people---we empty ourselves for love---for connection.


There’s a sweet and deep book from  a 17th Century Roman Catholic priest named

            Jean-Pierre de Caussade called Abondonment to Divine Providence

            And he writes this “For those who have surrendered themselves completely to God, all they are and do has power. Their lives are sermons. (page 58).


If we seek resurrection, then we must let God kill off our old self and our old mind.

            The mind that is ego-driven.

            The mind that needs to label who is good and who is bad.

            Who is right and who is wrong.

The mind that is always concerned about how we stack up.

            Are we smart enough or rich enough?

Do we have the right political views or have we been to the right spiritual workshops?    

            Kenosis is the doorway to putting on the mind of Christ.

            Because Kenosis removes all barriers between us and the Lord

                        And between us and others.

How do we get there?  LOVE


When we empty our minds of who belongs in the righteous circle and who doesn’t          

            Because divine love is without boundaries,

            Because divine love gives us a taste of paradise.

Because to put on the mind of Christ is to stop thinking about where people have been

And to remember that we are all invited to paradise—just like the thief on the cross


I think of the moral center of American Literature which is The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

If you remember, after many episodes---

Huck has come to see Jim as a friend and not a slave

            But Huck still has remnants of the mind of of the world

            Huck is caught were we are often caught

            His heart says one thing but his mind says something else

Jim is his friend—his only friend---

but the world says JIM is a slave who must be returned to his owner.         

And for Huck this isn’t just obeying the law.

He is convinced if he ignores the law, he will be a sinner and he will go to hell.

He is caught between the mind of the world or the mind of Christ

            The mind that says our differences define us

            Or says that our actions define us—like the theif of the cross---

But then Huck remembers the adventures He and Jim have had

            He remembers that after he saved Jim from capture, Jim said

That Huck was the best friend Jim had in the world and the only one he’s got now.


And something happens---something we call kenosis---

            Huck’s old way of seeing the world is emptied---

he became obedient to the point of death

            This is how the novel reads:

“It was a close place. I took up the letter (to Jim’s owner) and held it in my hand….

And then I says to myself, “All right then I’ll go to hell” and tore the letter up.


To put on the mind of Christ is to empty ourselves of our old ways of seeing the world.

As Paul writes---If anyone is in Christ---there is a new creation.

Remember Jean-Peirre de Caussade ?

For those who have surrendered themselves completely to God,

Their lives are sermons. (page 58).

            This is the real preaching our world needs today. From you and me.

It’s about Kenosis--- Self-emptying. Putting off the old way of seeing the world

            And putting on the mind of Christ.


We stop worrying about our past or our future

            We stop thinking about all those other people who distract us from what matters

            Kenosis---our lives don’t need to revolve around Donald Trump or Nancy Pelosi

The Mueller Report is not the Good News of the Risen Lord

regardless of what is says or doesn’t say.

Those are events—those are activities—

but they are not about salvation or resurrection

            And they make it harder to practice Kenosis.


Instead we must attend to what is in front of us right now.

            This space—the hard wood of this pew—the light of the window

            Your breath in and out---the beat of your heart—the person sitting near you

These are the countless doorways to God’s love for you.

            Because the force behind resurrection is always love.

                        Huck’s love for Jim

                        The thief’s surprising love of Jesus on the Cross

            The love that enables us to be fully alive in this moment


It’s not that we divorce ourselves from the world.

Huck Finn does a very radical act in not turning Jim—a slave—into the authorities

            But his act is not about anger—not about revenge—not about his ego

            He’s not out to get anyone

No---the Kenosis of love has enabled him to shed all negative and divisive thought

            And act from his heart and his life is now a sermon---today.

Palm Sunday is a map for us

            We are invited to do better than wave Palms and give the right cheer.

                        We are invited to walk ourselves to Calvary

                        And pray for God to crucify our self centered mind and empty our egos

So that with God’s help we put on the mind of Christ—

and become God’s agents to make the world new.