December 2, 2018: Grace on Grace in the Higher Up

Pastor Steve Mechem

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Philippians 2:5-8 tr. by N.T. Wright
This is how you should think among yourselves - with the mind that you have because you belong to the Messiah, Jesus:

Who, though in God's form, did not
regard his equality with God
as something he ought to exploit.
Instead, he emptied himself,
and received the form of a slave,
being born in the likeness of humans.
And then, having human appearance,
he humbled himself, and became
obedient even to death,
yes, even death of the cross.

I really don’t know where God lives.

I am basically Panentheistic in my personal theology, which means that I believe God is above all things and yet is in the midst of everything.

I believe God’s presence permeates everything.

So I believe that everything that we touch, taste, smell, see, and hear contains the Divine. I believe that any part of creation that I encounter is an encounter with the Holy. I believe that when I experience relationships with people I am experiencing God. Hence, when I have done it for the least of these, I have done it for God.

This doesn’t help me to understand or to know where God lives. Is there a concrete location or is it an ethereal spirit in the sky kind of thing? Now, the the Bible tells us that God lives in heaven. As Jesus prayed, “Our father who is in heaven.” But I don’t know where heaven is. I think I was taught that heaven is up there somewhere. The problem is that we live on a globe, so what is up there to me is down there to someone else.

And I can’t figure it out.

If I knew where God’s residence was, I might be able to visualize more clearly the conversations that God has with God’s self. I wonder, where God lives, is there a big o office, with a great big conference room, with the huge table and one very large chair where God sits and talks to God’s self. Or might it be that God is laid back enough that these big conversations take place at the kitchen table over coffee and doughnuts.

What conversations you ask.

The one like where God talks to God’s self and decides to make human beings in God’s image.

Or what I would think is the biggest conversation in the history of conversations, and that is the one where God decides to empty God’s self so that humanity might experience God‘s love.

I imagine, and I’m thinking it’s at the kitchen table, but the conversation goes something like this.

In this creation that we are processing, we desire to have a love relationship with the created, but there are incredible obstacles in our way. Foremost among them is the reality that creation can never fully understand or know the creator.

When a painter paints a picture, he or she may love what is created- the colors, the images, the depth of feeling,

but that picture on the canvas cannot know the artist. It just can’t. It doesn’t know what was in the creator’s mind when the choice was made to use purple over red, or to include three puppies in the corner for no apparent reason.

When a poet writes a verse, he or she may fall in love with the words that are written, having felt inspired, as if the words were mystically transcribed. They read the words again and again, touched by their power. The verse can’t feel like wise about the poet. It can’t know the poet’s motivation for using iambic pentameter feel the poet’s heart skip when just the write word appears.

How does creator connect with its creation in such a way that the creation feels as if it knows and understands the creator?

How, says God to God’s self, do we connect with our creation so that way so that it might recognize the love we have for them and respond to it by loving us.

After a hesitation in the conversation, with time spent in reflection, God responds to God’s self by declaring, the only way that our creation, especially humanity, can know and understand us is if we become the created. And the only way that can happen is to empty our self and become like them.

Empty our self - of our state of glory so that we might enter the temporal realm.

Empty our self - of our status so that we might experience the life of our creation.

Empty our self - of our state of being so that we may feel as they feel and experience as they experience.

Empty our self - of our supremacy over creation and become subject to the creation we created.

Sure there may be occasional calming of the winds, turning water into wine, healing the hurting, but generally, As God who has emptied God-self, we will be subject to the natural reality is of created life.

To be born, to live, to die.

To be excited, to be overwhelmed, to be bored.

To grow tired, to experience hunger.

To get a flu bug, to get aches and pains, to dream weird dreams.

To hurt when punched in the gut, to feel heartache when insulted.

to learn, to experience, to be confused

To age, to grieve, to sometimes forget peoples names.

To be loved, to be hated.

To be afraid, to be angry, to feel lost.

To speak truth to the powers that be, to endure their wrath,

To empty our self’s the only way.

And to become like humanity.

Suspect to humanity’s griefs- to go to the extreme to show our Creation what love looks like, what humanity is supposed to look like.

And it is not enough just to become like them, we must show them the depths of our love for them so that they might experience that love for each other and for us.

We must teach them how to love, tell them stories that reinforce love, show them the reality of love, make them aware of the cost of love.

And with of that the decision is made:
From the Message Translation:

Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself. He had equal status with God but didn’t think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what.

Not at all. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human!

Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn’t claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death—and the worst kind of death at that—a crucifixion.

Because of that obedience, God lifted him high and honored him far beyond anyone or anything, ever, so that all created beings in heaven and on earth—even those long ago dead and buried—will bow in worship before this Jesus Christ, and call out in praise that he is the Master of all, to the glorious honor of God the Father.

Amen.