We worship God revealed in Jesus Christ, the eternal Word of God made flesh; who lived our human life, died for sinners on the cross; who was raised from the dead, and proclaimed by the apostles, Son of God; who lives eternally, as saviour and sovereign, coming in judgement and mercy, to bring us to eternal life.
Philippians 2: 5-11
Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, 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 at 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.
This portion from Paul’s letter to the Philippians is probably one of the earliest portions of the New Testament and it gives a glimpse into very early Christian thinking about who Jesus was. It’s probably older than the letter itself, something Paul is quoting, perhaps a form of words that he was clinging to in his imprisonment, as we might a much loved hymn.
From earliest times Christians have celebrated and affirmed that in Jesus was seen the very presence of God, emptied (or poured out) into a human life, a life with the low status of an enslaved person, who died a terrible death, and who was then lifted high, exalted, risen, his name above every name. Christians have tried to put this story into words over centuries and the URC Statement of Faith is one more go. It reminds us of the words we read at Christmas from the start of John’s Gospel, of the Word made flesh, and then tells the story of how the Word lived our human life, died on the cross, was raised, and now lives eternally, raising us up to eternal life.
I wonder which part of the great story of Jesus stirs your heart and your faith most deeply? And does it puzzle you, as it puzzles me, that the teaching of Jesus is so little mentioned in statements like these and why the lectionary and the liturgical year leave so little space for us to explore what Jesus said? It matters to me that it was someone ‘in the form of God’ who spoke parables to change lives, who released many from inner pain with words of forgiveness, and who commanded us to love our enemies. We worship the God revealed in that voice and that body, in the whole of the story. And our faith is built on the whole story.
Jesus, let me learn your story and may its wonder shape my life. Can it be true that, in you, God took flesh and shared our life? And died upon a cross for love of all the world? And are you now risen, lifted up, raising us up too? I treasure the words you said, the stories you told and the stories told about you, but let me live by your whole story, from the beginning at creation, to the fulfilment at the end of time, Jesus, Son of God, my Saviour and my sovereign. Amen.
The Rev’d Dr Susan Durber is minister of Taunton URC and Moderator of the Faith and Order Commission of the World Council of Churches