Week 3: The discipline of emptying
“Have the Same Mind and Love”
Pr. Joseph G. Crippen
Texts: Philippians 2:1-8; Mark 8:31-37
Sisters and brothers in Christ, grace to you, and peace in the name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen
Emptying, self-giving love is God’s blueprint for how the universe works.
Here’s how we know this: in the beginning, God made room within God’s own self for the creation. God risked losing everything by putting human beings in the creation who could disobey, destroy, reject. God’s emptying love is the basis for creation.
But there’s more. John says that Jesus is God’s eternal Logos, that is, Word of God, present at creation, one with God, and now in human flesh. But Logos is more than Word. It’s Pattern, Blueprint, Logic. God’s pattern, God’s logic, God’s blueprint is now knowable, seeable, in Jesus.
So Jesus, in teaching, healing, welcoming, loving, suffering, and dying, reveals the shape of God’s pattern. In Jesus, love is always giving up oneself for the other, emptying, and finding filling on the other side. That is, death and resurrection.
So if Jesus is God’s Blueprint in the flesh, and that’s what Jesus revealed, then self-giving love is the blueprint for how the universe is supposed to work. It’s the pattern of God and the pattern of creation. Dying to live. Losing to win. Letting go to receive all things.
We’ve already seen this in the creation. The whole universe thrives and grows on dying and rising.
Stars collapse and die, and new planets and galaxies are born. Plants die and decay, feeding the earth. Seeds effectively die, only to be born into new life. Animals die, giving life to other animals and plants.
Even our bodies follow this pattern. Except for our brain cells, which last our lifetime and aren’t replaced when they die, every other cell in our bodies has a life span. Skin cells live for about two weeks, die, and are replaced by new ones. Colon cells last about four days. We’re constantly dying and living. If cells don’t do this, don’t die to provide new life, we call that cancer. They persist and grow and take over the rest of the body. They don’t follow God’s blueprint for life.
If this is God’s blueprint for the creation, we need to re-think death and loss.
We’re used to seeing dying as the enemy, to resist losing. We live competitively, see winning and success and strength and power as the goals of life.
But if that’s just cancer in human-sized form – and to judge by the shape the world is in right now, that’s a good analogy – then to find life we need to embrace God’s way, the other way.
God’s design is: life is found in dying, gain is found in letting go, winning is found in losing. This provides life to the whole universe. Since this is radically different from the world’s view, if we’re going to see differently, live differently, we’ll need help. And that’s what God gives us. God’s Logos, God’s Blueprint, Jesus, took on flesh, to call us back to God’s design that gives us life.
Be of the same mind, having the same love, as Christ Jesus has, Paul says.
Take up your cross and follow me, Jesus says.
This is the whole point of Jesus’ coming, to re-teach us the meaning of life. To call us back to the way of divine Love, the pattern of all things. The way humans are living and doing things leads to destruction and pollution and brokenness, without life or love or hope. But God’s way, the universe’s pattern, is a path that gives life and hope and healing. Jesus’ emptying his divine glory and facing the cross is our model for our lives. Jesus’ resurrection proves that this path leads to life.
So follow my cross path, Jesus says. It’s what you were designed to be. That’s the discipline of following me, he says, the discipline of emptying. Be ready to lose everything. If you cling to all you think you need, you’ll really die. You’ll miss the joy and hope of abundant life. When you let go, lose, yes, it will feel like dying. But you’ll find life and wholeness and healing.
Read all the teachings of Jesus. This is where they lead.
So Paul says, be of the same mind, have the same love as Christ Jesus. That’s the path to life.
This letting go, this emptying, looks different for each of us.
Often the Church describes this in terms of pride and humility: let go of your pride and find the humility of Christ. But that’s only a problem if pride is what you’re clinging to, what fills your life and your heart. Since powerful men with pride issues have controlled much of the theology of the Church in the West for centuries, it’s little surprise that’s the common take on emptying. But everyone has different things to let go of, different things to die to.
If you’re filled with self-doubt and anxiety about your value, that’s what you need to let go of to walk this path. If you’re filled with fear and dread about the future, about your life, that’s what you need to let go of. If you’re obsessed with security and making yourself or your loved ones safe, or if you’re centered on doing things your way, trying to control your life and others, those things are what need emptying.
There’s no room for God’s life to fill us if we’re filled with something else.
God wants this for us because God wants us to find the fullness of life.
When we share Christ’s mind and love, learn what crosses we each are taking up, what emptying of ourselves we each are doing, when we start living as we were designed to live, we find what Jesus calls abundant life. Jesus says today that those who lose their life for his sake, and for the sake of the Good News, will heal their life. Will find what it is to be truly alive.
When we let go of all that fills us but doesn’t satisfy us, we find we’re able to be filled with God. God’s life now has room to come into every corner of our hearts, every room of our soul. Luther called this letting the old self die every day and asking God to raise the new self. It sounds contradictory, but as we’ve seen, it’s the pattern of the universe. The more we empty ourselves the more we are filled with God’s love and peace.
It’s true of our relationships with each other, too. Love isn’t love if we control it, if we fill our hearts with fears and anxieties and greed and control and gain. There’s no room in there for anyone or anything else. Love happens when we let go of what we cling to and make room for the other. When we lose. Become vulnerable, able to be wounded. Empty ourselves. This is how “love your neighbor as you love yourself” is really lived out.
It’s hard to really hear Jesus’ words today.
To dwell on what he means by us losing our lives to find them. To contemplate what it would be like to have the same mind and the same love as Christ.
But it isn’t required that we understand this all at once. In the living, the letting go, the losing, the vulnerability, that’s how we learn more and more what Jesus is about. How we find our true divine design. As we journey together, we help each other discover our own particular baggage, and help each other find the courage to let it go.
Eventually, we begin to know in our bones, in our hearts, that this is life for us. Life like God really meant us to live, life we see so clearly in Christ’s resurrection, life that really can heal this world.
In the name of Jesus. Amen