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Pentecost 20

Sep. 28, 2008


Phil 2:1-4

“So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any
participation in the Spirit, and affection and sympathy, complete my joy be
being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of
one mind.” Phil 2:1-2

Intro: Last week at the end of the adult Bible study, I gave a short preview
of the topic for today’s sermon, telling those gathered that we would be
emphasizing how important it is for a congregation to be of one mind and
united. Afterwards one of those in attendance came up to me and said “The
day a Christian congregation is of one mind will be a miracle.”
That person was right. We have all witnessed, or even been part of
congregations that are divided over something. Even this congregation, that
has a name that bespeaks unity—“Peace With Christ”—has at times had
divisions. We shouldn’t be surprised, even the congregation at Philippi,
which gave Paul such joy, had this problem. Listen again to verses three and
four (read):
It appears that the Philippians were viewing the Christian Faith like
many Christians today do—from a strictly personal perspective—rather than
as being made one with Christ, and others, in order to be part of Christ’s
body, which is His church.

In baptism The Spirit undertakes a conversion not only from sinner to saint,
but also from the isolated individual to a member of the Christian

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community. In baptism one person becomes one with the other members of
the body of Christ. St. Paul speaks of this mystery in 1 Cor. 12—“For in
one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or
free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit”.
This corporate identity in Christ—if we can use that term—is made clear in
other places as well, like Ephesians 4 where Paul speaks of one body and
one spirit—one Lord, one faith, one baptism; and Galatians three where he
clearly reminds us that there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male
nor female, but we are all ONE in Christ Jesus.
In Spite of these clear teachings Christians carry their individualism
—and their own personal agendas-- with them into the church. We view
Christ and His Church like we do Santa Claus—comprising wish lists that
we desire—or even demand—that He meets.
I wish the people here were friendlier.
I would really like it if we had chairs instead of pews.
I want a church that has lots of good programs that can meet my
needs.
I want a sermon that speak to my needs—and what I usually need is
shorter sermons. I want easier hymns. I want red carpet, no blue, or
whatever color Mr. and Mrs. Jones don’t want. I want a church that is more
Lutheran, less Lutheran, not Lutheran at all. I, I, I,--you fill in the blanks.
But to use a cliché, there is no “I” in Team. That was proven this past
summer when the Dream Team brought the gold medal in basketball back to
America. That team was filled with superstars—Kobe, Carmelo, LaBron--
yet Mike Krsysweski—their coach, convinced them that in order to win,
they needed to play not as individuals, but as a team.

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The church is not a team, and I am not your coach—but in order to be
the people God has called us to be, we must, in faith, set our selfish desires
on the shelf, crucify our egos, and be united as one in Christ.
What unites God’s people?
Programs? NO!
The Pastor? NO!
Worship styles? No!
Friendships? NO!
Family? No!

Based on Paul’s letter to the Philipians, there are three simple, basic,
foundational principals for unity.

The first is Christ. In verse 5 Paul begins that ascription of praise, so


familiar to us, with these words: Have the same mind among yourselves
which is yours in Christ Jesus.”
We have been given the mind of Christ. Note, it is the mind of Christ
—not the feelings of Christ. Too often we base faith on feelings. But Christ
Jesus did not become man, go to the cross, suffer and die because He FELT
like it. In love He was determined to do so. In that same love we are to be
set in our minds to be one—in humility to consider others better than
ourselves.
This is why, only a few verses later, Paul commends Timothy. Look
at verse 19-21.(read)
The others seek their own interests—not those of Jesus Christ. Are
you to be commended, like Timothy, for seeking the interests of others, or
only yourself? And has the result been greater unity, or oneness in Christ?

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The second foundation of unity is the Gospel. Five times in the first
chapter of Philippians Paul specifically references the Gospel. Now there
are many blessings and benefits that the Gospel brings to us—forgiveness of
sins, eternal life and salvation, peace and comfort in affliction—these we
hear of frequently. But there is one that we tend to forget—or ignore—and
that is true unity among believers. Unity created and sustained by the solid
and sound teaching and preaching of doctrine. We referenced Timothy
before—when we look at the epistles that bear his name we find Paul
repeatedly making this point. For example:
1 Timothy 6:3-4: Teach and urge these things. If anyone teaches a
different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord
Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness, he is puffed up
with conceit and understand nothing. He has an unhealthy craving for
controversy and for quarrels about words, which produce envy and
dissension.
Being united and of one mind in the Gospel is not only the teaching of
Paul, but of Christ as well. He prays as much in John 17. And this might
surprise you, but it was also the desire of Luther. Contrary to what many
think—Luther did not set out to create schism—but rather desired true unity
in the catholic church. But it was to be a unity based not on the pope’s
decrees, decisions of councils, or popular ideas of the people—but solely on
the Gospel. And that is why the teachings of the Lutheran church are
contained in a book called what? (Concord). And what does that mean?
(Harmony)

Finally, unity comes in The Sacraments. This is reflected in the word


koinonia, which we find here in verse one of Philipians 2. It is translated

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fellowship—but speaks of a very specific fellowship—that being the table
fellowship in the Lord’s Supper. In the Gospel of Luke we are told that
Jesus took the cup—specifically, it was the second cup in the Passover meal
—the one of redemption. Now, each person had their own cups—but Jesus
took His cup and gave it to the disciples to drink from. They drank from one
cup—indicating the oneness they shared in Christ. It is why the church has
retained the custom of having the common cup in communion. This is also
illustrated in 1 Cor. 10:16—The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a
participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a
participation in the body of Christ? The word translated “participation” is
“koinonia”. In the Lord’s Supper we have fellowship with Christ—and with
one another. Unlike Christ and the Gospel, the Lord’s Supper does not
CREATE unity, but reflects the reality of the unity, the oneness, that already
exists in Christ.
This is why Jesus says “If you are going to present your gift at the altar
and remember that your brother has something against you, go and first be
reconciled to your brother, and then come and leave your gift at the altar.”
Far too often Christians think of communion as “my time with God”.
But communion is not about “me and God”—it is about WE and God.
When we sit, stand, or kneel at the Lord’s Table we are in fellowship with
the person to the left and to the right of us—with those who communed
before us and who will commune after us—with those who have gone before
us in death and who will come after us in this life, with the angels, and
archangels and all the company of heaven, as we are reminded before
singing the Sanctus. This is where we gather with one mind, one love, and
being in full accord. This is where the unity and oneness in Christ is to be
clearly seen and confessed.

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We began by speaking of a miracle. Have you ever wished to see one? I
have good news for you: You have. Many times. Every time you come to
communion. For here you see through eyes of faith not only the body and
blood distributed for the forgiveness of sins—you also see the oneness that
we share as members of one body in Christ. This unity in Christ is what
enables us to set aside our personal wishes, wants, and desires—and seek
only the will of Christ for the good of His church and our neighbor. That,
dear friends, is a miracle.
Amen.