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. -Philippians 2:5-8
In Phillipians 2:5-11, Paul is quoting one of the oldest prayers of the Christian Church. These are words that were used by the very early Christians in their worship services every week - they are the earliest written formulation about Jesus Christ that we have.
The passage proclaims that even though Christ was equal with God, he did not regard that special status as something to be exploited - to be used for his own benefit or for leveraging any kind of agenda. Instead, he completely emptied himself, not only allowing himself taking human form and living a fully human life, but to be everyone’s slave - even to the point of suffering persecution and death on a cross. It goes on to say that because of Christ’s deep humility, we too need to follow suit with our own humility, bowing down before Christ, whom God has highly exalted with a name that is above all names.
Submission to Christ is not something we talk about all that much in our modern liturgy, and it is a topic that feels rather…uncomfortable. Because we know that over the centuries, the church became very powerful and sometimes demanded that people submit to the church itself. The church, feeling equal to God, was not as radically humble as Christ himself was, and sometimes used its power in hurtful ways.
But as the church begins to lose the prestige and institutional power it once had, it is an important time to revisit this ancient prayer with fresh ears. What does it mean to follow a God that gives everything away and asks us to do the same? How are we being called, as Jesus’ followers, to lay down privilege and empty ourselves, devoting our lives to serving others? It is certainly a lot more palatable to be served by our own privilege than to set our faces toward the cross. But of course, we also know what comes after that. New life is just around the corner.
Come celebrate Palm Sunday this year - both the triumph and the passion all in one big Sunday.