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Graduation at the university where I serve is a splendid affair. Gowns of all colours swish around the town, academics process in order of seniority and new graduates are celebrated for their intellectual achievement. This festival of optimism assures parents and patrons that their considerable expenditure is well invested, as future wealth and influence are assured. In a world where you climb the ladder of success, grabbing all you can as you go, these words in Philippians are stark, splendid, subversive and shocking.
Most strikingly, this narrative of Jesus’ pre-existence, followed by his earthly life and beyond, is not just a series of propositions to keep Christians, theologians arguing ad infinitum.
What we are given is a glimpse into the very heart of divinity. Here we are shown in stunning graphic detail what it means to be God. Rob Lacey captures it delightfully: “He took off all the royal bits, cut up his heavenly credit cards, chucked his global contact list, walked off without his bodyguards. He unplugged his airwave connection, left his precious star collection, he gave it all up” (The Street Bible, Zondervan, 2002, p136). The self-humbling, self-sacrificial love of Jesus displays God’s identity and character. He willingly takes on human limitation and dies a slave’s death, cursed by God.
Amazingly, the incarnation has changed the Godhead forever. So from the lowest to the highest place, God has vindicated Jesus. He is Lord – Lord of all angelic beings, human beings and the dead, Lord of all Caesars throughout history, Lord of the United Nations and the World Bank, Lord of all Who’s Who lists and the church. We worship him as Lord not least as we reflect his counter-cultural, self-giving attitude and actions. In letting go of our rights in order to serve each other, we honour the once-shamed Lord.
First used in Encounter with God July-Sept & Oct-Dec 2014, written by Fiona Barnard, copyright Scripture Union. Used with kind permission.
We worship you, Lord Jesus, for your humility and self-sacrifice. Thank you for giving up all your privileges to come and be among us, to live for us and to die for us. We bow before you as we acknowledge you as our Lord. In your name, Amen.