Humble Servants (April 1)

Philippians 2:5-11


Today (or the Sunday you study this lesson) is April Fools’ Day. In another letter, Paul said, “For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Corinthians 1:18). Paul’s writing in our passage for today illustrates this foolishness. The story of Christ’s humble obedience and shameful death on the cross was foolishness to the prevailing culture of Christ’s time, in which honor was valued above all else and to be found shameful was worst thing that could happen to a person. Christ’s humble death as a poor criminal is foolishness to our culture, which values power and wealth, winners and fame. We should reflect deeply and honestly about how this passage challenges our cultural assumptions and our own personal values. Happy April Fools’ Day and Palm Sunday!

Down and Up

If you drew a graph of this passage, it might look like a bowl.

Notice the downward movement of the passage as it begins with Jesus equal with God. Then Jesus emptied himself, and humbled himself to shameful death. At the lowest point, God exalted him so that all heaven and earth bow before him.

As we begin this Holy Week, we might also think about this passage in connection with Christ’s last week. Jesus begins the week on a high with the Triumphal Entry on Palm Sunday, by the end of the week, Good Friday, the cries of “Hosanna” turns to shouts of “Crucify Him,” and Jesus dies on a cross. On Easter Sunday God raised Jesus from death, victorious.

Nothing Never Happens
John Hendrix comments on Philippians 2:5-11 in Nothing Never Happens: Experiential Learning and the church, pages 125-127, which you may have (if not it is in the library).

Reading the Scripture

Here are some ways you might read the scripture or tell the story:

•    Since this passage is probably an early Christian hymn,  it would be great to present it musically. We have a YouTube video (below) of a church choir and orchestra singing a beautiful version of this song, “The Mind of Christ.”  If you would like to play this for you class let me know and I can help.

•    Lectio Divina is a prayerful reading of scripture. The passages in this unit might lend themselves well to this kind of reflective reading. See the see below for a guide to Lectio Divina.

•    Read the scripture standing and sitting to illustrate the movement of the text. Read verses 5-6 standing at the left side of your desk, sit on the left edge of your desk to read verse 7, take a seat to read verse 8, sit on the right edge of your desk to read verse 9, then stand up to the right of your desk for verses 10-11.

•    Audio:
o    The Bible Experience: The Complete Bible (“presented by a stellar ensemble of today’s top-name actors, musicians, clergy, directors, and award-winning producers.” Available from Keith).
o    Faith Comes by Hearing: You’ve Got the Time (Dramatized New Testament we used a few years ago during Lent. Available in the church office.)

Teaching Suggestions

•    Do something, as a class, to be of the same mind as Christ.
o    Sing a song/hymn together.
o    Read the scripture in unison.
o    Plan a service project that reflects your class’ corporate understanding of Christ’s calling/mind.
o    Write the story of your Sunday School class in three sentences (see the Formations Teaching Guide, p. 74) and recite them together.

•    I like the activity in the Formations Teaching Guide (p. 74). It reminds me of the youth’s cardboard testimonies they shared in worship on their D-Now weekend last year. This was the story of their lives in two phrases, rather than three sentences. See pictures on flickr: Cardboard Testimonies).

•    Encourage servant evangelism or random acts of kindness. See, 101 Ways to Reach Your Community, for examples of servant evangelism (on the teachers’ resource shelf in the library).

•    Jesus became a servant/slave: As an application, plan to show hospitality and love to one of our downtown neighbor. Bake a plate of brownies and share it with the employees; Stop by and say, “We’re from Lexington Avenue Baptist Church. We’re your neighbors and we just want you to know we are praying for you”; write out a blessing and share it with the business; or come up with some other creative way to show love to a downtown neighbor. This could become an ongoing relationship with your class and a business as a part of our neighborhood ministry. If you do a project like this, I’d love to hear about it, as would our Missions Leadership Team.

•    Superman Video Clip (see below):  In what ways, if any, is Jesus like superman?

I have set aside a shelf in the library with resources for Sunday School teachers. I will place there resources of general interest and some specifically applicable to current lessons.

•    101 Ways to Reach Your Community, for examples of servant evangelism (on the teachers’ resource shelf in the library).

•    John Hendrix comments on Philippians 2:5-11 in Nothing Never Happens: Experiential Learning and the church, pages 125-127.

•    For additional commentary on the text see these commentaries in our library:
o    Mercer Commentary on the Bible (Mercer University Press, 1995)
o    Harper’s Bible Commentary (Harper & Row, 1988)