What are you doing? What are you wearing?
Imagine, if you will, that you are friends with a young family. Mel and Malcolm have 2 young children, Jackie and Georgie, who are twins and are both in Kindergarten. It is the day of the school sports carnival and you are joining the family there. After the event, you are all going for coffee and the children will have babyccinos. But not yet.
As you cross the oval, you see that the Kindergarten 3-legged race is being run and you hear Mel and Malcolm’s voices, “Go, Jackie! Go, Georgie! Come on. Get to that finish line. You can do it.”
You cannot see the children but I can assure you that they are doing 1 of 3 things: helping one another along while going as fast as they can, stepping together slowly and carefully so as not to fall over, or sitting down and picking dandelions. Which one do you think it is?
The parents might be asking them to start moving, to move faster, or to continue doing the great job they have commenced.
Our Philippians 4 reading starts with Therefore so it refers to what was just said previously.
What does Paul talk about in the letter to the Philippians? He is very fond of them, he thanks them for their generosity, and he encourages them to follow the example of Jesus and to imitate those who are themselves imitating Christ. They are to be humble and to serve and care for one another.
Therefore, and Paul addresses all at Philippi as beloved brothers and sisters standing firm in the Lord, and he continues, I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord.
Some commentators have said these two were disagreeing with one another and Paul was correcting them. Others have pointed out that moral exhortation in the Greco-Roman world often encouraged behaviour that was already happening. We do that too. For example, Fill St Barnabas with beautiful music. Make our Boutique a blessing to our local community. Preach the Word, brother/sister. Praise the Lord, Alleluia! These things are already happening, but we can urge and encourage people to continue in their great work. Like Jackie and Georgie’s situation, we cannot be positive whether Euodia and Syntyche are running the race as expected or being distracted by the things of this world. But there are clues.
Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ can also be translated as Let the same mind be in you that you have in Christ. Let’s put that with Paul’s words to his 2 co-workers. Let the same mind be in you that you have in Christ … Euodia and Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord
Be of the same mind. It might mean to agree with one another, or it might mean to be of the mindset that Paul was describing.
He then says, I ask you… to help these women, for they have struggled beside me in the work of the gospel, together with Clement and the rest of my co-workers, whose names are in the book of life.
Paul is asking that others help these 2 women who have struggled, not necessarily against one another, but alongside Clement, and all the others who have been working with Paul for the Gospel. We also hear, their names [that’s the names of all the co-workers], are in the book of life. That is high praise.
Let’s try the other view on for size. Suppose that Euodia and Syntyche have had a disagreement with one another and need to be reconciled, to be of one mind. Is that Euodia’s mind? Syntyche’s mind? Or the mind of Christ?
How do you reconcile with someone with whom you profoundly disagree? We have all been in this situation.
Natasha Moore writes for the ABC.
She said last week (Collective pessimism is bad for our health. But here's how you can temper it. 27.9.2020), “At the Sydney Writers' Festival last year — in those halcyon days when writers' festivals were a thing — I went to hear the American Booker Prize-winner George Saunders speak. He was brilliant and delightful, but he made this throwaway comment about polarisation that stuck in my mind.
‘When someone cuts you off in traffic, you know which party they vote for,’ he said.
We all laughed. But I also thought: no I don't. It's not quite like that here. Yet.”
When someone says or does something we don’t like or disagree with, it is easy to get caught up in that and make all sorts of other assumptions about them that may not be true.
I have seen views on social media that I really disagree with, but I don’t know any more about those people than what they said on that occasion. If I am to love them as neighbours, it helps to hold off judging them, however wrong I think they may be, and find common ground with them. Those who disagree about how to raise children usually both, or all if there are more of them, have an equally strong commitment to loving their children and giving them what they see as the best possible upbringing. Those who disagree about politics usually have an equally strong commitment to a better future for their country or their state or the world, but differ on what “better” means and what goals and strategies are needed to achieve it.
Kathryn Shihadah is another current writer. Here are some of her words from last week (Ferguson changed me forever – let Breonna change you, 29 September 2020)
Previously, I would have said, “Can’t they … see how destructive and irresponsible they’re being? What good do they think will come of [this]?”
But now, I saw [them] with grace-colored glasses, and asked, “Why are they so angry? What is this actually about?”
Another description of grace-coloured glasses is the mind of Christ.
Paul reminds us elsewhere that God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but rather a spirit of power and of love and of self-control. (2 Timothy 1.7) and that self-control is also one characteristic of the fruit of the spirit (Galatians 5.22-23). Self-control or self-discipline or a sense of restraint enables us to refrain from focusing on our differences or judging one another and to focus instead on finding the common ground we need to find reconciliation. For Euodia and Syntyche, that common ground is their commitment to the mind of Christ, and so that is where they are encouraged to connect with one another.
You can decide whether you think Euodia and Syntyche are being corrected or commended, or both. In the end, it makes no difference. The appropriate strategy is the same, to encourage them to be of one mind in Christ.
On to the Gospel reading, but hold that thought about the mind of Christ and all that it implies.
The story of this great and generous banquet is told in 2 places in the scriptures, by Matthew and by Luke. If you are of a mind to compare them, you will discover many interesting similarities and differences. The story is essentially the same but, in a way, Luke narrates as Good Cop and Matthew raises the stakes as Bad Cop.
Matthew has the M-rated version of events and of the consequences for those who refuse to come. The first guests mistreat and murder the messengers. The king, in turn, has them killed and their city burned. Luke has the G-rated version. He just says none of those who refuse to come will get to taste the dinner.
Finally, Matthew has a little supplementary sub-plot that does not appear in Luke but does fit well with our Philippians reading.
Those who come to a wedding banquet were expected to dress for that occasion. Matthew, being Matthew, details a consequence of horror for those who don’t do the right thing. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
It is told very dramatically, very Matthew in style, but the essential instruction of the message is that if you accept an invitation to the wedding, come as a wedding guest, not as a street loiterer, even if that is what you were when you were found and invited. I don’t know about you but I am not the same person I was when I began my walk with Jesus and, God willing, I am not the person I will become as I continue to walk with Jesus and with the faithful disciples who follow him For that I am grateful to God and grateful to you, my fellow-travellers.
If we hark back to Paul’s letter, we are to have the mindset of who we truly are and who invited us to that identity. We should know what that entails, fulfil it and rejoice in it. We will be known not by actual elaborate wedding outfits that we are wearing, but by the love of Jesus Christ that we can be seen bearing for one another and for the world. In other words, when you come to the heavenly feast to which you are invited, wear the mind of Christ, wear your grace-coloured glasses.
And to finish, some words from Bob Holmes and St Paul
Walking with Wisdom ~ Awakening Awareness
Everything becomes sacred when we walk in the spirit.
Every leaf, every tree, every eye and open heart.
The ground we work and plant.
The words we write and sing.
The ones we bless and honour...
Every person is Beloved
As we walk in the vast wonder of God. ~ Bob Holmes
And from Paul, whether you are already doing this or not,
Rejoice in the Lord always and again I say rejoice.