Sermons 1st October 2023


Readings, Philippians 2,1-13, Matthew 20, 23-32


From our Philippians reading this morning, we read;

“In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:

6 who, being in very nature God,

    did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;

7 rather, he made himself nothing

    by taking the very nature of a servant,

    being made in human likeness.

8 And being found in appearance as a man,

    he humbled himself

    by becoming obedient to death –

        even death on a cross!”

In the covenant service we have just celebrated in Chapel part of the Covenant Promise we say together is “I am no longer my own but yours.

Your will, not mine, be done in all things”


They are familiar words to Methodists, derived initially from Anglican scripts and developed by Wesley, and it’s a promise not to be said or taken lightly- the words speak highly and deeply about that personal faith in God, the commitment we give because of the promises of God.

But even as those words are said each year, those who say them know they are going to fail God at some point in the coming year, and so there is a need  to pray for forgiveness before we even start.

We spoke last week of forgiveness and God’s grace and love as revealed in our readings from Matthew’s gospel and the letter to the Romans, we learnt of God’s incredible grace to forgive when we do not deserve it, and how that should reflect in our relationships with others.

Our reading this week leads us on deeper, to a  focus on Christ, his example, his goodness, his perfect obedience to God- even when that led to the cross.

So how close to that perfect obedience can we get?

The beginning of the “Christ hymn”, as the central section of our Philippians reading today is often known,  begins in the King James translation Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus”  In the NIV it reads “in your relationships have the same mindset as Christ”. In other translations it reads as having the same mind as Christ or likeminded or the New Century translations “to think and act as Christ”.

But actually, when you read the commentaries it is revealed that the Greek word used goes further than this, it’s a word not matched in English, phroneō, which translates as having practical wisdom and deep understanding, and encompasses knowing how to act rightly, especially when faced with complex  or difficult problems. So perhaps the New Century translation “to think and act like Christ” is closer to the original meaning of the word.

If we embrace that understanding, then Paul’s initial words have even deeper consequences for Christians and the Church, and consequences that are only made truly possible with the help of God’s Holy Spirit, precisely because we are so imperfect.

Paul says in the NIV translation

“Make me very happy by having the same thoughts, sharing the same love, and having one mind and purpose. When you do things, do not let selfishness or pride be your guide. Instead, be humble and give more honour to others than to yourselves. Do not be interested only in your own life, but be interested in the lives of others.”


Living out the reality of this, as best they could, was a mark of the successes of the early church which have led to the worldwide church we have today. And where church communities are actively living out these words, they are seeing growth and new believers, because it is an attractive and loving community they are joining, rather than an institution or organization with vaguely good intentions.


The life of the church of those who call themselves Christians has to be centred on Christ, the nature of which is described in this Christ hymn in Philippians.

When we look at our gospel reading and Jesus short parable of the two sons which follows his conversation with the religious leaders Jesus’ emphasis was on comparing those who know how they should live, and don’t live that way, presumably referring to those Jewish leaders and other “religious” followers of the law. Yet those who might initially show reluctance, but nevertheless subsequently live in Kingdom ways (which has been the emphasis all through our Matthew readings) are shown to be those acting rightly.

As the New Century translation of Paul’s words said- to think and act like Christ.

It’s a salutary lesson to all churches today, as it was to the religious leaders Jesus was speaking to, it’s no good claiming to be a Christian, knowing all the things Christians are supposed to do and be, and then not living with a  Christ-like mindset, or that deeper meaning encompassed in the Greek phroneō.

Our focus, as those people who are known as Christians, is to live up to that name. To make Christ the centre of our lives and relationships in such a way that our lives and relationships with each other and with those in the community echoes the qualities we see in Christ.

When we come to our confessions each week, we confess that we have not lived the way Christ would have us live- but it’s no good keep coming week after week and saying that, if we don’t change and actually try to live out Christ’s way in our lives. To go back, again, to what Jesus said to Peter that we have repeated in previous weeks, to have in our  minds the concerns of God, not the concerns of humankind. To have in our minds the concerns of love.

And all we need to do, with the Holy Sprit’s help, is to live and act and think and reflect with the mindset or phroneō of Christ, the servanthood of Christ, the obedience of Christ and above all the love of Christ.