Model Partners

. 5 min read

June 2019, Christ Mountain Top
the Scripture, on unity,
      from John 17, Ephesians 4, Psalm 133
Matthew 18.19-20
Philippians 2.12-30
      Much drawn from 7/17/2005 CrossWalk Community
at SSE
Big Bang Theory,
Friendship Algorithm
Model of Priority: Self-interest or Jesus-interest?
can tell if someone is interested
      Or being polite
      How distracted are they with their watch
or phone?
      Are they just waiting to talk to someone
      Is their friendly behavior a pretext?

know all about self-interest, about desire for food, cars, houses,
relationships, work, jobs, success, drugs. 
In one way or another, we’ve gotten obsessed with self-interest.
·       Psalm
 But lusted
exceedingly in the wilderness, and tempted God in the desert.  15 And he gave them their request;
but sent leanness into their soul. (KJV)
·       James
 when that desire has
conceived, it gives birth to sin, and that sin, when it is fully grown, gives
birth to death.
is not obsessed with self-interest.  His
life is wrapped up in the interests of God. 
That’s not about being some religious nut, but it is about confidence
that God’s plans for us are both holy AND good.
has been serving for some time on Paul’s team and is listed at the beginning of
the letter as a writer of the letter along with Paul: “Paul and Timothy,
servants of Christ Jesus, to all the saints in Christ Jesus at Philippi. . . .”  In this passage, Paul speaks of Timothy’s
genuine interest in others, particularly the Philippians, and says that Timothy
is unlike “everyone [who] looks out for his own interests, not those of Jesus
each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others.
(Php 2.4)
has a bond with these folks in Philippi. 
Because he has focused his life not on self-interest but on the
interests of Jesus Christ.
Avatar of Solidarity
      “The Connection” is always personal
      Structure must serve the personal
cards to me
is one of the partners in the Philippian Church, not a permanent member of
Paul’s team, who delivered the financial support of the Philippians and came to
represent them in providing care for Paul in prison.  In those days, prison care was almost
nonexistent.  People lived through
imprisonment because folks on the outside brought food and cleaned up.  We don’t know what kind of near-fatal illness
Epaphroditus faced, but it’s not hard to imagine becoming severely ill in a
place where human waste was not routinely removed and where disease-carrying
rodents were free to roam.
      Epaphroditus has become the embodiment or
avatar of the solidarity, the relationship, between Paul and Philippi.  He is their representative to Paul.  To Paul, he is Philippi.  Wrapped up in Paul’s concern for Epaphroditus
is his concern – and Epaphroditus’ concern – for the Philippians worrying at a
distance.  He’s a decent man who doesn’t
want his friends and family worrying about him when they can’t do anything for
is for us a model for the difference between sending money and giving of
ourselves, and the difference between the human body and the body of Christ.
      It’s only reasonable to admit the huge
qualitative difference between making a donation to the American Cancer Society
and actually caring for a loved one facing cancer.  It’s not that one is wrong, just that the two
are different on a qualitative level.  One
involves a small portion of who we are – a few dollars (and, usually not any
dollars we really need) – while the other requires a significant investment of
our entire selves.  I love what the
prophet Samuel said: “To obey is better than sacrifice” (1 Samuel 15:22).  God has always been more interested in the
whole of life, not simply our extra resources. 
No surprise that God enters space and time as a human being, to personally
touch our needs, to involve his entire self in our salvation.  The personal solidarity – something everyone
offers, but few truly deliver – is what matters most to Jesus.
      But there are some things that we can’t
reach directly, personally.  And that’s
the difference between the individual human body and the larger body of Christ.  For those needs from which we are separated
by distance of geography (as Philippi and Paul) or expertise (cancer researcher
vs family caregiver), there are other members of the body of Christ who can
touch those needs in our name, who can be like Epaphroditus the embodiment or
avatar of a relationship, of our presence, with another.  In fact, in Ephesians we are given the ideal
that leaders in the life of the church exist to “equip [all] God’s people for
the work of ministry” (Ephesians 4:12).
      We cannot be present in the context of
every need, but if each of us is present in the context of the needs set before
us, our body can be present in the context of every need.  In this particular church body, only a small
part of the larger body of Christ, we have persons
      who devote themselves to forming character
in the lives of children in the public schools and youth sports
      who bring quality and integrity to
business life
      who resource and care for those on the
road to recovery
      who have waited and prayed at the bedside
of sick loved ones
      who extend the hospitality of Jesus to
persons with HIV/AIDS
      who build homes for first time homeowners
      who build community in their own
neighborhood or workplaces
we cannot be present in the context of every need, but our body CAN! We are
better together.
want to take a moment to join in solidarity with the protesters in Hong Kong.
They hope to maintain some freedoms under a totalitarian regime, and some of
the main leaders of the protests are pastors. A Methodist Church in Hong Kong
is one of the main gathering locations, and the next big protest day is Monday
July 1, the 22nd anniversary of Hong Kong reverting to Chinese rule.
The protest has found an accidental anthem. Pastors organized a 72 hour prayer
vigil in the city and at the end of the vigil people sang this song and they
just could not stop. They sang all night long, 9 hours.
      I invite you to join me in singing their
anthem, to add your prayers for peace and justice to those of our Chinese
sisters and brothers.
alleluia to the Lord, Hong Kong protest anthem