Reflection on the Epistle Philippians 2:1-11, Palm Sunday, April 10, 2022

The Epistle:  Philippians 2:1-11

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 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 glory of God, the Father.

Let us Pray: Merciful God, as we enter Holy week, turn our hearts again to Jerusalem, and to the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Stir up within us the gift of faith that we may not only praise him with our lips but may follow him in the way of the cross. This we pray in the name of our Faithful Lord and Savior. Amen.

I decided to do my reflection on The Epistle this Palm Sunday as I am sure most have heard many sermons on the Gospel of Luke 22:14-23:56 for this Palm Sunday. I also included the first 4 verses of Paul’s letter to the Philippians which help set the tone of the Epistle.

In places around the world this coming Sunday, people are celebrating an event that has come to be known by different names in various circles. Some call today Palm Sunday. This is because on that fateful Sunday some 2000 years ago, our Lord came into Jerusalem riding a colt, he was hailed by the people with waving and strewing palm branches accompanied with the shouts of “Hosanna to the Son of David Blessed is he who comes in the Name of the Lord.” The people we are told, were ready for that day. They had been waiting for generation after generation, reminding themselves of God’s promise to restore them. As we look back to the beginning of Lent on Ash Wednesday, we put the sign of the cross on our foreheads to remind us that we were marked as God’s at our baptism. As we go into Holy Week, we need to remember the Triumphal Entry” of Jesus into Jerusalem. We can hear the shouts of the crowds as they proclaim “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”.

But the “Triumphal Entry” of Jesus into our sinfulness, can never be forgotten because, for it was the greatest sacrificial entry ever offered. That’s why others will call today “The Sunday of the Passion.” For we remember that this day marked the beginning of that Week of weeks, a week full of absurdities. When, popular acclaim turned to public execution. You must wonder if the same crowd of people who shouted Hosanna on Sunday, where the same who, like us, began to cry, “Crucify him!” on Friday?

As we observe this Palm Sunday what does today mark? It marks the first Palm Sunday when this community of faith can once again enter those red doors and come together, after being separated for over a year, to join with countless other believers around the world and symbolically enter Jerusalem to recount the saving acts which wrought our salvation and guaranteed our entrance into that heavenly and new Jerusalem.

So, what does today mark? Today, we remember the One who, according to the Epistle to the Philippians, achieved victory by “humbling himself and becoming obedient unto death, even the death of a Cross.”  Philippians was written from prison by Paul to the saints at Philippi, mostly Gentiles. Paul came to know them during his 2nd missionary journey. It is his most personal letter, one of heartfelt joy to the believers he loved. It is thought by many to be the last of his epistles during the end of his Roman imprisonment, around 63 or 64 AD1. Paul writes, in light of his own circumstances, to encourage them to find joy in the midst of their difficulties by seeking to know Christ and be like Him.

Humility is at the heart and center of what we celebrate this week. The collect of the day says, “Almighty and ever living God, in your tender love for the human race you sent your Son our Savior Jesus Christ to take upon him our nature, and to suffer death upon the cross, giving us the example of his great humility: Mercifully grant that we may walk in the way of his suffering, and also share in his resurrection.” There is no humility without humiliation. And it’s in the shadow of the Cross, we experience Jesus’ mercy, and we share in his ultimate triumph over death.

So, what does today mark?  It marks the beginning of showing us that the flaws inherent in human nature haven’t changed in two thousand years. For we will see just how many times the faithful can become fickle. How lovers can become betrayers. But we can also see how the fearful become fearless and how life ends and new life begin.

So, what does today mark? Today, we remember the One who, according to the Epistle to the Philippians, achieved victory by “humbling himself and becoming obedient unto death, even the death on a Cross.”  And it is in the shadow of that same Cross, then, we experience our turning around, our conversion, our repentance and our hope of resurrection life.

Because Jesus humbled Himself, “Therefore” the Father has highly exalted Him and bestowed on him the name above every name! Even the name of Jesus is powerful.  Even his name has value. Value seems too small a word. His name has power, and authority, and dominance. At the name of Jesus every knee will bow.  But not in just one domain, at his name creatures bow in heaven on earth and in hell. Jesus will be confessed as Lord by all men and women for all time.  After Jesus returns and fully establishes his kingdom come, every soul will be submitted and surrendered to Him. We’re supposed to be like Jesus in how we complete each other’s joy, we supposed to be like him in our humility,

So, as we look back at the beginning of our Lenten Journey, have we moved from being like the flash of the palms as we prepared the ashes for Ash Wednesday, or have we worked to make this journey one that will last not just through Lent, but through the rest of our lives. Will we be summoned to follow him and to pray with him in the Garden of Gethsemane, to stick with him when he is arrested, and to claim him when we are asked with Peter, “Are you not a follower of that Man Jesus?” Take time to appreciate life and to understand our mortality on earth and look forward to everlasting life in Christ.          

Let us Pray: Thank You, Father, for the life You have given us to live. For another day, and the reminders of Your creation surrounding us. When we witness a beautiful mark of Your creative hand, let us recall that Christ was with You, too, when the world began and the sound of Your voice. With grateful hearts we praise You, God, for who You are and who we are in You. Let the Peace of Christ’s Palm Sunday entrance remain in our memories. When we are fearful and anxious, help us to recall the Peace in which Jesus rode into the city, so soon after to be crucified. God our Father, help us to act in grace and peace in the face of fear, both known and unknown, knowing You are incredibly close. In Jesus’ Name, Amen

As a follow up check hymn 435 in the 1982 hymnal for the full words of “At the Name of Jesus every knee will bow”

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