The Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost (A)
“One Spirit, One Mind, Striving Side-by-Side”
September 24, 2017
Sermon Text: Philippians 1:12-14, 19-30
Peace be unto you from our Triune God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.
Dearly Beloved of the Lord,
“I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ.” (Philippians 1:12,13)
So writes the Apostle Paul, who with great determination and drive takes the glorious Gospel message from one place to another around the northern Mediterranean Sea ports and surrounding cities, towns and villages.
He has one goal, one mission, one objective now in his life… to preach Jesus Christ and Him crucified. And he does it well. Some might say too well because of what the message of Christ will always result in… namely opposition and persecution. Due to Paul’s relentless pointing to Jesus and the cross, he will endure countless beatings, countless blows landed upon him and more than once, it will land him in prison… in chains.
In the Book of the Acts of the Apostles, St. Luke records Paul going to Philippi, recalling,
“As we were going to the place of prayer, we were met by a slave girl who had a spirit of divination and brought her owners much gain by fortune-telling. She followed Paul and us, crying out, ‘These men are servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to you the way of salvation.’ And this she kept doing for many days. Paul, having become greatly annoyed, turned and said to the spirit, ‘I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.’ And it came out that very hour.” (Acts 16:16-18)
That’s great, but one problem. The owners of this slave girl were furious because she lost her ability to tell the future and, consequently, they lost any future revenue from her. So they seize Paul and the others, haul them off to the marketplace where the people gathered there join in attacking and beating them severely. And this followed by Paul and Silas being thrown in prison.
What happens next is the well-known account of the divine rescue that takes place, the earthquake, all of the prison doors miraculously opening and the prisoners loosed from their shackles, the wonderful conversion of the jailer who washes the disciple’s wounds and what is more, St. Luke tells us, “he was baptized at once, he and all his family. Then he brought them up into his house and set food before them. And he rejoiced along with his entire household that he had believed in God.” (Acts 16:33,34)
And all of this taking place by the grace of God. All of this taking place as Paul, Silas and the others with them… “with one mind, one Spirit, striving side-by-side” for the sake of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Now, years later, St. Paul writes to the Christians at Philippi saying, “I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ.”
The thing is, Paul writes this from Rome… imprisoned… again! Under guard… again! “Imperial guard” no less… that of Caesar. But whether you are talking about his brief imprisonment in Philippi or the drawn out one in Rome where he will be eventually martyred, Paul could say the same thing, “that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel.”
Do we know… are we aware, realize, take into account that the same can be said of us or at least should be said of us and all Christians… regarding all that we will face… all that we will come up against… all that we will endure… for the faith, for the Gospel… the Good News of Jesus Christ?
And this, at the hand of a hostile world where such anger and resentment will come in many forms and in many places… be it at work… at school… at home.
And it will come from many people, yes, certainly from strangers, but also from relatives and friends… from government officials, employers, co-workers, teachers, coaches, classmates and teammates… all who are not going to be pleased…
… That the Lord our God and the keeping of His Holy Word is most important in our life. That it is paramount… with there being no close second!
… That Jesus Christ comes first in our life… in our marriage… in our family… in everything and anything… and this… all this… not being mere words… but words… a confession and conviction that is backed up with our actions… that which is seen in our everyday lives… the decisions we make and the directions we take.
St. Paul said, “I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel” and then in the last part of our text, he focuses on his brothers and sisters then and all of us now… yes, YOU… and ME… telling us,
“Let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ.” Is this so… for you, for me… the manner of our life, what we do and say, think and act?
“Let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel, and not frightened in anything by your opponents.
Would St. Paul, if he were alive today hear that you… that me… that we the members of St. Paul’s are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel, and not frightened in anything by our opponents?
Not frightened at all by those who oppose us, not worrying… which those who oppose us and the Christian faith will find disconcerting… that we take it all in stride, come what may. To this Paul adds,
“This is a clear sign to them of their destruction, but of your salvation, and that from God. For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake, engaged in the same conflict that you saw I had and now hear that I still have.” (Philippians 1:27-30)
As with Paul, so with us… “engaged in the same conflict” with the world and the people of this world… those who still sit in the darkness of sin.
Yah, but Paul was an apostle! Your point is? “Apostle” means “sent one” and you and I have been sent as was Paul, Peter and the rest. In different vocations yes, but still sent. Sent by the same Lord Jesus Christ. Sent with the same Spirit through which, in which, by which we can reach out to those who sit in darkness with the marvelous Gospel light of Jesus Christ. The same Spirit through which we will persevere… we will most certainly make it to the end and receive the crown of life.
My friends, in Adult Bible Class we are discussing the very different mind and mindset that is ours by faith versus the mind and mindset of the world, that which is by sin.
And one clear difference is how we view suffering and particularly that which comes with being a Christian… that which is not only a possibility or probability, but rather a certainty. A sure thing. It goes with the territory.
You see, adding to all of the crazy ways we view things, suffering for Christ, suffering for the faith, suffering for our neighbor and especially those who, with us, make up the Christian Church… is an honor… a privilege and a true joy!
And that is why St. Paul says in our text, “For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake” (Philippians 1:29)
We have been GRANTED this honor to suffer for our Lord’s sake… for the Gospel’s sake. We certainly do not look for it… or forward to it… suffering, that is. But we also do not run from it. We stand our ground. We stand on the Rock of our salvation. Jesus is that Rock… our Rock!
Sadly, many have not read the divine memo about what one’s life here on earth is all about. It is really quite simple. It is all about living your life to the glory of God. It is all about serving the Lord your God and your fellow brothers and sisters all of which, in this world, WILL come with suffering… but also with countless blessings and the greatest reward, the likes of which cannot be fully understood or comprehended with mortal minds.
It will nevertheless be ours and this is guaranteed… this is sealed in blood, holy blood, precious blood…Christ’s own… on the cross… the very same cross we keep our eyes focused on in the midst of our suffering and pain.
Indeed, with one mind, one spirit, striving side-by-side with one another and all believers, we push on with the cross of Jesus, going on before!
Appropriately, we join the Apostle Paul in what he will say a little later in this very same letter to the Philippians. He poignantly writes, “I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”
Amen! May it be so with us dear Lord. May it be so. Amen!
May the peace of God which surpasses all understanding, guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus, unto life everlasting. Amen.
“One Mind, One Spirit, Striving Side-by-Side” 9/24/17 The Rev. Mark H. Hein, St. Paul’s Ev. Lutheran Church, Lockport, IL