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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Today’s Scripture Reading | Philippians 2:1–11  

If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death—even death on a cross. Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (NRSV)

How often do you start your day with the words “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves”?

There was a time in my life when I had to learn to do just the opposite. While I won’t speak for all generations of women, I know that in my day, women were acculturated to always put the needs of others before their own. Eventually that became uncomfortable. I didn’t have the foggiest idea of what my needs were. I had gotten lost.

I don’t think losing ourselves is what God has in mind for any of us. So, I spent some time learning how to get in touch with and state my own needs. Eventually I came to a sense of greater health and wholeness. As my emotional health increased, it became so much easier to put the needs of others before my own, to not have to scramble for position and power, because I’d gained a sense of my own value and right to have needs. I realized how much God loved and valued me—needs and all.

Paul’s words were spoken to a group of people surrounded by a hierarchical system that ascribed certain rights and privileges to some groups over others. It was a counter-cultural message to the church. Don’t live and act as society is structured. Live and act as Jesus lived: healthy enough (because he knew God created him and loved him) to give of himself for the sake of others and for the sake of God. It is in that combination of knowing who you are and whose you are that you can give for the sake of another, let go of your own need, and find the exaltation of joy that comes from being able to empty yourself. It’s a paradox far beyond my attempts to make sense of it.

Thank you, God, for creating us in your image with gifts and graces and needs and foibles. Walk with us as we try to live into a sense of our own value. And then, help us to experience what joy it is to empty ourselves because we know we belong to you. Amen.

Written by Judith L. Watt, Associate Pastor for Pastoral Care

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