The Common Good

Sermon: Knowing Our Own Minds

Know your own mind," they say. Claim your authority," they say.

 Decorated palm,  nito / Shutterstock.com
Decorated palm, nito / Shutterstock.com

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This is the kind of thing I hear at school all the time. “Where is your voice?”

And it is a compliment we pay someone when we say, "She is someone who knows her own mind." We may ask someone to speak their minds.

 "Speak your mind, son. Tell us what you really think."

Get all the other stuff out of the way. Don't hem or haw. Don't waste our time by telling us what you think you want us to hear. Speak your mind.

Has anyone ever said that to you? It's a good thing. An encouraging thing. But what does it mean ... to know your own mind? It's a curious phrase, really.

Then we're supposed to speak it?

Right. Great. Now, if only I knew where I put my own mind I might know it. It's probably hidden in the stacks of books on my desk or in the mess over in next to the closet. Or, maybe for you, it's hidden under the bed with that old toy you have been looking for since Christmas.

Knowing our own mind is not as easy as it sounds. So, how do we know it? How do we get there? This is a question I've been asking myself a lot lately. You see ... I appear to have lost my mind.

... another curious phrase, no?

How important our minds are! Knowing them. Speaking them.
God forbid, we should lose them!

Knowing your own mind is a lot like singing a song by heart. It may take some time to get there ... we don't always know our own mind, you know, but once we get there, once we dig in and uncover that nugget of truth, well, speaking our own mind, knowing our own mind can be pretty powerful stuff. Knowing your own mind is a lot like singing a song by heart. Then speaking our own minds becomes this musical number, this song and dance from your favorite movie — the band tunes up and the melody begins and ...

... you are singing.

Lent is rapidly coming to a close and we're singing. This Sunday could be named, "A Tale of Two Songs."

We're anticipating.
We're jubilant!
“Hosanna in the highest! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”

So, we dance and we sing.

But just before this moment in the story there's this surprising passage. The Gospel of Luke reads, "As they were listening to this, he went to tell a parable, because he was near Jerusalem, and because they assumed that the kingdom of God was to appear immediately."

"Immediately." Well, at least they knew their own minds. This is the trouble about knowing our own minds. It's not the same thing as having a thesis with a well constructed argument. And it's not the same thing as being right.

(Then again, neither is having a thesis with a well-constructed argument. But that's another sermon.)

Jesus tells a parable about kings and servants and trust and the consequences of what happens when servants don't trust their kings. It isn't pretty, but the disciples are ready, the pump has been primed, and they make their way to Jerusalem.

And they sing. Oh, how they sing! And they process around with palms. They lay their cloaks down on the road for a donkey to walk upon ... all because they sense their freedom. They sense their liberty is at hand.

Something.
Something is about to give.
The systems of oppression will be cast down.
The rightful rule will be reestablished.
And Jesus will be placed upon the throne.

"Teacher, order your disciples to stop!"

"I tell you ... if they were silent even the stones would shout out." Jesus states.

The disciples know this song by heart. They know it. Jesus says that even the stones know this song. Its an incredible song.

That's one song. Remember, I said that there are two songs this morning. The other song has a different feel to it than “Hosanna!”

Paul wrote:

"... 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 in 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."

"... even the stones would shout out ..."
Do you think this is the song that they would sing?
Or would they have another song to sing?

I admit it's not as catchy as "Hosanna, Loud Hosanna!" or even "Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.” It doesn't have that same lilt, that same popular hook. But there it is in Paul's letter — a hymn. Paul is quoting a song he assumes the people know. And he does so to underscore a point.

"Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus," he wrote. And then he sang them a song. So strange! I mean, not that he would quote a song. People quote songs all the time, but that the song has changed so completely from one time to another — ”Hosanna!” to “Humility!”

The people speaking their own mind attempted to crown a king with one song. Paul offers them another.

Paul precedes this hymn with some encouraging instruction, “have the same love for one another ... 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.”

Oh no.
This is a terrible song!
“Have the mind of Christ” would be the b-side to the more popular “Hosanna!” if there had been 45 rpm records back in the first century.

"Don't know your own mind," says Paul. "Have the mind of Christ."

Knowing our own mind is not the same thing as being right ... or true ... or good ... or beautiful.
I wish it were. Jesus knows I wish it were. I spend most of my days desperately trying to be right. It's an occupational hazard.

I wonder if maybe we are called to lose our minds after all, to put aside our own ambition, conceit, even our own interests for those of others, to have the mind of Christ instead — a mind of humility and compassion. We don't often think of humility and compassion as natural partners, but Jesus did. Paul remembered that for the early community.

Be of one mind. Have the mind of Christ.

The cries of “Hosanna!” have been replaced, but the song is no less joyful ... it's simply more wise.

Love one another.
Live for one another.

Seek not ambition.
Seek not the parade.
Seek not the conceit of hubris.

Seek humbleness.
Seek compassion.

Know your own mind? Of course! 
But, friends, that is only the start.
That's the easiest part.
We're called to have the mind of Christ.

What would the stones in the streets of Jerusalem have sung had they been given the chance?
Would it have been the same song that the disciples sang?
I used to think so.
Now I'm not so sure.

Tripp Hudgins is a doctoral student in liturgical studies at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, Calif., and associate pastor of First Baptist Church of Palo Alto, Calif. You can read more of his writings on his longtime blog, "Conjectural Navel Gazing; Jesus in Lint Form" at AngloBaptist.orgFollow Tripp on Twitter @AngloBaptist.

Photo: Decorated palm,  nito / Shutterstock.com

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