May the mind of Christ my Saviour: Devotional for Holy Week
“May the mind of Christ my Saviour…” was written by Katie Barclay Wilkinson (1859 to 1928). Very little about her except that she worked with young women in West London, and was connected to the Keswick Convention, a movement to promote deeper devotion to Christ in the Church of England. The hymn first appeared in print in 1913. The hymn was originally written as a daily devotional, and the devotional below is based on the hymn which is, in turn, based on Philippians 2:5-11.
5 Let the same mind be in you that wasin Christ Jesus,
6 who, though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God
as something to be exploited,
7 but emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
being born in human likeness.
And being found in human form,
8 he humbled himself
and became obedient to the point of death—
even death on a cross.
9 Therefore God also highly exalted him
and gave him the name
that is above every name,
10 so that at the name of Jesus
every knee should bend,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue should confess
that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.
We begin with verse five: “Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus…”
The verse challenges us to be more like Jesus, and if we go back to the start of chapter two, we see that ‘being more like Jesus’ means encouraging others, loving others, sharing with others, being compassionate to others, being humble among others, and more focused on the interests, the concerns and hopes, of others.
We cannot become more Christ-like by ourselves. We need others.
And the text bears this out. The phrase ‘in you’ in verse five, “Let the same mind be in you…” is actually plural (en humin) and better translated ‘among you’.
So, the hymn could read:
May the mind of Christ, our Saviour,
live in us from day to day,
by his love and power controlling
all we do or say.
Are we, as a community, becoming more Christ-like? Are we being more encouraging, loving, sharing, compassionate, humble, and focused on the interests, the concerns and hopes, of others?
There are two schools of thought about these verses in Philippians. One is that Paul is setting down a pattern for every Christian to follow based on the life of Christ. The other is that these verses invite us to enter a community of practice, of working out of our salvation (those words come in verse 12) in communion with our living Lord.
Commentator James Denney writes, Christians are saved “not by dwelling on the wonderful words and deeds of One who…lived some time ago, and reviving these in their imagination, but by receiving the almighty, emancipating, quickening Spirit of One who [lives and reigns] forever….So it must always be, if Christianity is to be a living religion.”
We don’t only work out our salvation in community, but we work out our salvation in this community – where we are right now – “the word of God dwelling in us richly hour by hour”.
This is a challenge for us as we emerge from this pandemic. How do we let go of the desire to ‘go back to how things were’ and find salvation practices that enable faith to live now?
It is a challenge to us as we employ new staff. How do we stop hankering for the past – past ministries and ministers – and find a way of ministering that brings life now?
May the word of God dwell richly
in our hearts from hour to hour,
so that all may see we triumph
only through his power.
Our world seems particularly ‘sick and sorrowing’ right now. We are mindful of so many in our congregation with cancer and other long-term health conditions. We are thinking of family and friends with Covid. We are grieved for those so affected by the floods and anxious about the future of climate change. And we are deeply distressed by Ukraine.
Philippians chapter 2 established a new way of being for us, as human beings. Rather than running away, insulating ourselves, from the suffering of others, we worship a God who ran towards us, who entered the depths of human life, who understands, who cares.
Michael Mayne writes, “Only the passion and death of Jesus can reconcile these two apparently irreconcilable truths: that God is in love with us, and that at some point in our lives we all experience suffering, pain and dereliction.”
Let us delve deeply into that love!
May the peace of God our Father
rule our lives in everything,
that we may be calm to comfort
sick and sorrowing.
Last week we heard the beautiful story of Mary pouring out her costly perfume and here we acknowledge that Jesus is the costly perfume poured out for us. [He] “emptied himself, and took the form of a slave, being born in human likeness.”
Over the years these verses have been used to tell, for example, the poor in Latin America or women whose husbands are abusive that they should suffer like Christ rather than struggle for freedom.
They are not, however, the ones who are challenged by Christ’s example. It is those of us who hold status and power. Pheme Perkins writes, “In order to preach a gospel that centres on a crucified person and that brings persecution in its wake, such people must empty themselves.”
Can you think of a situation in which you are less powerful and must struggle for freedom? Can you think of a situation where you are powerful and must empty yourself of power so that others can experience freedom? Ask for God’s help.
May the love of Jesus fill us
as the waters fill the sea;
him exalting, self abasing,
this is victory.
As John Clark mentioned two weeks ago, Jesus was not crucified because he was “a preacher who healed people and inspired them to live better lives”. Jesus was crucified because he willingly entered the lives of the marginalized and oppressed and challenged the established powers while doing this and by doing this!
His arrival in Jerusalem that we celebrate on Palm Sunday led directly to his crucifixion. As John said, “It was a warning. This is what happens to those who become so popular they might actually be able to do something.”
Are we prepared to run this race, facing the foe, like Jesus challenging the ongoing victories of the power of sin in our world?
May we run the race before us,
strong and brave to face the foe,
Looking only unto Jesus
as we onward go.
Philippians 2:5-11 ends with the one who has humbled himself being exalted. “Therefore,” verse nine says, “God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name…” The name Jesus is given, is not ‘Jesus’, but the unspoken name of God, represented by the place marker, ‘Lord’. What this tells us is that in the incarnation, in Jesus’ ministry, in his death on a cross for us, Jesus truly reveals God, and the way God is.
Commentator Williams Loader writes, “At one level we have a story with a twist. Jesus did not… usurp God. Instead, he chose to do what God wanted. As a reward… God [gives] him what he had originally contemplated… he [is] called ‘Lord’ (or God). We could then trivialise it into a piece of common wisdom. Don’t be too ambitious about promotion. Do your job and see! You’ll get there!
But this skews its function. Paul is… [not saying] the act of lowliness was just one of those things Jesus had to go through to get to the top, but something paradigmatic. It said something about the heart of Jesus and the heart of God. He is ‘Lord’ now…because God names him as representing the way of divine being.”
Having the mind of Christ will not only shape us internally as a community – but it will transform our relationship with our wider community, as we encourage others (Monday), practice together a living faith (Tuesday), pray for others (Wednesday), lay down our power and challenge oppression (Thursday) and walk with Jesus the road marked by suffering (Friday). We will also come to represent the divine way of being, the divine being.
May his beauty rest upon us,
as we seek to make him known,
so that all may look to Jesus,
seeing him alone.
Amen and amen!
Rev Belinda Groves