The liturgy of Passion Sunday is dominated by the contrasts of the triumphant entry followed by the solemn proclamation of the Passion of our Lord. In between, the church each year provides us with two powerful texts to reflect upon – the first of the servant songs, followed by the Carmen Christi – the song of Christ – found in the letter of St Paul to the Philippians (2:6-11)
The powerful song or poem that Paul either wrote himself or he includes as an incredible testimony to the depth of the early Christian spirituality and understanding stands in stark contrast to the standard understanding of power and authority. Most people in the ancient world would have heard stories about two great heroes – Alexander the Great (356-323 BC) and the Emperor Augustus (65 BC – AD 14). Like the first fallen hero of the Bible, Adam, who grasped at equality with God rather than receiving it as a gift – the people of Israel and then the christian church across the centuries has continued to grasp and grab and cling and claim – rather than follow the example of the true God who only on the cross reveals his true divinity.
6 Who, though in God’s form, did not
Regard his equality with God
As something he ought to exploit.
7 Instead, he emptied himself,
And received the form of a slave,
Being born in the likeness of humans.
And then, having human appearance,
8 He humbled himself, and became
Obedient even to death,
Yes, even the death of the cross.
9 And so God has greatly exalted him,
And to him in his favour has given
The name which is over all names:
10 That now at the name of Jesus
Every knee under heaven shall bow—
On earth, too, and under the earth;
11 And every tongue shall confess
That Jesus, Messiah, is Lord,
To the glory of God, the father.
NT Wright (2004). Paul for Everyone: The Prison Letters: Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon (p. 100). London: SPCK.
Recorded at St Paul’s, 8am (5’52”)
Palm Sunday / Passion Sunday, Year A.