As I have said many times these past few years, God has a dream for each of us, the only problem is, God won’t tell us what that dream is, we have to figure it out.
I know, it’s not fair, and life would be so much simpler if God would just tell us what our path will be at birth. But then again, if God did this, would it make a difference? As the pinnacle of God’s creation, God endowed us with reason and free will. God gave us the ability to choose between God’s dream for us and any other path that presents itself to us. Sometimes the challenge is not to figure out God’s dream for us but to faithfully choose to accept that dream.
This is what I believe Paul is beginning to address in his letter to the Church at Philippi. Paul was a firm believer, despite our differences as individuals, what unified us at the core was our belief and love of Christ. The opening words of our passage this morning points the congregation in that direction, “If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, and compassion and sympathy, make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.” That one mind, that full accord of which Paul speaks of comes from our trust and acceptance of the love of Christ.
With this in mind, Paul calls the people of Philippi to let go of their own selfish ambitions and desire and “let the same mind be in you as was in Christ.”
This is the first step in discerning God’s dream for us. By letting go of what we want, how we view the world changes as we gain an ability to see the world from a new and different perspective. Through this, we become open to asking how God may see the world and what would God want from us. After we are able to ask this first question, new questions arise as we find ourselves asking what are God’s values and priorities compared to mine and what do I need to change in my life in order to live in greater unity with God.
As we answer each question and find the new ones just ahead, we discover a journey with God has begun as we are led to ask the ultimate question. “What is God’s will/God’s dream for my life?” In Paul’s letter to the Philipians, Paul states that God’s will for us is not about selfish ambition or conceit, but about being of the same mind of Christ by emptying ourselves and giving ourselves over to the total will of God.
So many times, I have heard or read where preachers have assured those who are hesitant, if they are willing to trust fully in God, and usually this includes tithing, then health and prosperity will be theirs. I have never figured out their basis for such statements, in the latter part of Paul’s letter this morning, he is clear, the person we are to imitate, whose lead and example we are to follow is Jesus. Paul does not tell us to be Jesus, but to imitate Jesus, to walk the same journey Jesus took. That is, to be willing to empty ourselves so fully to God that we are willing to offer full obedience, obedience to the point of a shameful death on a cross. St. Paul in his final letter to Timothy, written as he awaits execution states, that he is “like a libation being poured.” In other words, as Paul awaited death, he was willing to give up the last of his desires, the desire to live, and follow God.
For most of us today, it is unlikely God’s dream for us includes martyrdom, then again, I question if God’s dream for anyone other than Jesus was martyrdom. Instead, God’s dream for us is to identify our gifts and talents and to use them towards the creating of the reign of God. Often times, when we are able to connect our gifts and talents with what God’s dream truly is for us, it there we find our passion.
I find it sad how young people today rarely seek careers based on where their passions and interests lie. Instead, it seems the number one factor our young people use when deciding a career path is money. And many have told me accumulating wealth is their passion. No wonder we have a passionless work force, A work force in which most people claim to be unhappy with their jobs and often feel trapped by them.
As many of us were taught early on, money does not buy happiness. What allows us happiness, peace and contentment is living in obedience to God’s dream for us. Some of us learn this early in life as somehow the words of Shakespeare, “to thine own self be true,” take hold in us. For most, however, it takes a long time to find it.
I don’t think a month goes by when we don’t hear of someone who at the age of forty or fifty, after having made it to the pinnacle of their careers, suddenly walkS away to use their skills and resources to help others. And how many of us have come to see our jobs as a way to pay the bills and our “hobbies” or volunteer work to fulfill our passions.
In last week’s Gospel, Jesus told the story of the workers in the vineyard. He told those who were listening how the owner of the vineyard gathered workers throughout the day to come and work for him and how at the end of the day all were paid the same. The message was hard for many of us to hear, like those who had arrived early and worked all day, we found ourselves complaining and asking where is the justice in this story. The parable, however, isn’t about divine justice, it is about divine love.
It is about God’s reality, that it does not matter when we come to seek and find God’s dream for us because the result is always the same. . .a sense of wholeness and completeness, a sense of total contentment with our lives, And most of all the peace of God, which Paul tells us, passes all understanding. These are the rewards we seek, and it is these rewards that are more valuable than anyone can hope for or imagine.