Joy. If the circumstances are right—if everything, or at least almost everything, is going our way— then we can feel joy. That's what most people in our culture believe. But since we live in a world that is full of difficult and puzzling circumstances and events, most of us seldom experience that kind of joy.
Paul talks about a different kind of joy—a joy that lets us whistle even during our darkest moments. In his letter to the believers at Philippi (located in what is now the northeast corner of modern-day Greece), the apostle describes a joy far more powerful than the elusive feeling many in our world seek. And the amazing thing is that he is writing from prison!
Christianity proclaims a joy that transcends circumstances. Joy, says Paul, is something much deeper than the mere massaging of our surroundings or a superficial smile that pretends it is light even when the darkness is obvious. Following Jesus Christ in a fallen world—in the darkness of unpredictable and often painful circumstances—enables us to "whistle in the dark," to know joy even in the midst of hardship.
In the first chapter of Philippians, Paul reveals that a pathway to joy is found in living a life that passionately revolves around Jesus Christ. The third chapter focuses on a life of relating with Christ, and chapter 4 explains that true joy involves relying on Christ. In this series (part of a larger series we planned for our congregation), we want to focus on the second chapter. Here Paul teaches that if we want to learn to "whistle in the dark," we must learn to live a life that reflects Christ, especially in our attitudes toward and relationships with others.
Prelude (violin with full orchestra)
"How Beautiful," words and music by Twila Paris, arr. Bruce Greer, Fletch Wiley; Almighty God—12 Great Songs for Solo Instrument (Word Music; full score and orchestration available separately).
Welcome, Announcements, and Prayer
One of our pastors leads this opening part of the service, greeting everyone and offering a special welcome to guests, who are invited to come to the guest center for further information about the church and its various ministries. The guest center is a well-labeled area where we have staff members waiting to answer questions and provide information as well as a professionally recorded fifteen-minute message from the senior pastor that visitors can listen to on cassette tape.
WHiSTLING IN THE DARK
a four-part series based on Philippians 2
The welcome concludes with an inv.tanon to pa the Friendship Folders, which the congregation is asked to sing. The folders include prayer request and comment Lrds that can be filled out and placed the offering plate later in the service.
The pastor then highlights important announcements that the entire congregation needs to know about (such as church socials and "programs or prayer needs that are not included in the bulletin).
Musical Call to Worship (ensemble or choir)
"Let Us Praise the Lord," words and music by Landy and Joy Gardner, Gary Prim; "In This House", words and music by Richard Smallwood. Both from the Christ Church Choir collection Hand in Hand (Star Song Chora. Publications, available through Brentwood Music; orchestration available).
God greets us in words of Scripture, and we greet one another.
"Blessed Be the Lord God Almighty", words and music by Bob Fitts; Maranatha! Music Praise Chorus Book, 3rd ed.
"Oh, for a Thousand Tongues to Sing PsH 501, PH 466, RL 362, 363, TH 164, TWC 130
"People of God," words and music by Wayne Watson; Songs for Praise and Worship (Word), The Celebration Hymnal (Word and Integrity Music).
The three exaltation selections are to be sung in a medley form with brief key-change modulations between each selection. or the keyboardist needing assistance with modulations 1 would suggest the Worship Planner Edition of Songs for Pram and Worship (Word Music). Modulation charts are found on pages 550 through 562.
This prayer begins immediately following the exaltation songs, and the piano continues to segue softly through it paying variations on the previous selection and then moving into an introduction of he song that follows. This time of prayer is assigned in different services to various individuals, including " pastors and lay leaders.The prayer concludes with an invitation to worship God with our tithes and offerings.
Our Gifts of Tithes and Offerings
Offering of Music and Drama
"They Will Know Us by Our Love," words and music by Kenny Mann and Bobbie Mason, arr. Clydesdale. From the musical Make Us One—The Body of Christ United in Praise (Word Music; full score, choral parts, and orchestration all available separately). Drama used by permission.
In order to give a visual sign of unity among our musicians, I used both of our worship ensembles as well as two of our soloists to perform the musical part of this selection. A choir could be used as well. The larger ensemble (thirteen members) sang the SATB choir parts, the smaller ensemble (six members) sang the SAB Praise Team parts, and the soloists sang the tenor and alto solos. I also used the two-scene drama (see p. 24) that is included in the musical during the interludes of the song.
To prepare for this offering in song and drama we held separate ensemble and drama rehearsals during the two weeks prior to the service, then one joint rehearsal with a partial orchestra on the Wednesday night before the Sunday service and one run-through on Sunday morning before the service with the full orchestra.
Message: "Downward Mobility"
Scripture: Philippians 2:1-4
As chapter 2 begins, we get the sense that Paul is writing to a healthy church, but one in which rumblings of dissension are being heard. Picture a healthy garden in which some weed seeds have already been sown (this is confirmed in 4:2-3).
Over the course of our life's journey, we all have been made painfully aware of the way strained relationships with other believers can be anything but joyful. What a difference we see in a church when the believers are seeking to reflect Christ in the way they relate to each other! Not only will they experience Christ's joy as they do so, but they will be instruments of joy in the lives of their brothers and sisters in Christ. Instead of sowing seeds of dissension, they will sow seeds of God's peace!
In verses 1-4 we find four amazing and interrelated ingredients that lead to a garden of joy-producing relationships in the body of Christ.
1. Amazing grace (v. 1). Instead of a trite and superficial, "Please just get along with each other," Paul takes the Philippian Christians to the very source of their life: the love and grace Christ has shown to them.
"If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ:" Take an inventory of your church or a fellowship group you have visited recently. You can usually tell quite quickly if a person or a church is encouraged by the reality that they are united to Christ. If they are, it will show in their relationships!
"If any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion": If we have truly grasped the incredible reality of Christ's love, and if the Spirit's agenda is dominant in our community, then we will have no room for fractious, divisive attitudes. If we believe God's grace is really amazing, then it will affect how we relate with one another! It will produce an amazing unity.
2. Amazing unity (v. 2). This man, who had started their fellowship with his proclamation of Christ's greatness and grace while modeling Christ's love, is now telling them that true, complete joy comes in the context of healthy relationships in the body of Christ. Paul gives four exhortations in verse 2 that many believe correspond to the four "if" statements from verse 1. In verse 1 he has given them the motivation; now in verse 2 he gives them the instruction: be like-minded, love one another, be one in spirit, and be one in purpose.
Paul's cry is not for uniformity, but for unity. The metaphor of a body with very different parts but a common purpose casts its shadow over these exhortations: as Christ's body, we must be unified under him as our head. We do not all look alike, but we must be unified in heart and purpose.
But how is this unity cultivated in a body of believers? Paul has already conveyed the absolute necessity of a common conviction, authentic appreciation, and current enjoyment of God's grace. He now adds on the instruction regarding the "how" by continuing his teaching in verse 3.
3. Amazing humility (v. 3). When we begin to genuinely grasp the amazing reality of grace, it will inevitably lead to amazing humility. When I become aware of the amazing nature of grace, my addiction to self-interest begins to melt. When I realize I truly need grace—that it is a necessity, not just a nicety—my haughty attitudes dissipate.
We mistakenly believe that diversity is the enemy of unity. Yet God's Word teaches us that selfishness, not diversity, is the antagonist of an atmosphere of unity. The selfish ambition Paul warns us against is also mentioned in Galatians 5:19-20, where he describes the acts of the sinful nature. Sin trains us to see ourselves as the center of our own little universe. (After all, what determines if you like your group's photo: how everyone else looks? Probably not!)
When I lack the humility to see others as more important than me, I am inevitably running from unity, not toward it.
4. Amazing servanthood (v. 4). If humility is present in my life, servanthood is an inevitable companion. If a church or fellowship is struggling in the arena of unity, it is a sure indication that the heartbeat of a servant is an unfamiliar sound. In the eyes of the watching world, the credibility of God's love is reflected in our unity and love for one another, and our love is nowhere more powerfully demonstrated than in the arena of servanthood. Servants' hearts (illustrated in w. 5-11) are grown in the soil of humility. Humility is cultivated by the water of amazing grace. The result is a garden that accurately reflects Christ and brings great joy to those involved.
"We Will Stand," words by Russ and Lori Taff; music by James Hollihan; arr. by David T Clydesdale; orchestration available. From Hymnal for Worship and Celebration (Word), The Celebration Hymnal (Word and Integrity Music).
We used both worship team ensembles and a soloist to sing the SATB score. The ensembles began singing in a choral formation and then walked forward and formed a solid line on the last chorus to once again emphasize unity.
Closing Response (Congregation)
"Bind Us Together," words and music by Bob Gillman; Maranatha! Music Praise Chorus Book, 3rd ed. (43).
reprise on "We Will Stand" (from measure 40)
THE KING AND I
"He Is F.xalted," words and music by Twila Paris, arr. by Chris R. Hansen (available from Fairhaven Ministries, 2900 Baldwin, Hudsonville, MI 49426; 616-662-2100).
Welcome, Announcements, and Prayer
Musical Call to Worship (Duet with Choir)
"Powerful Name," words and music by Claire Cloninger and John Mays, arr. David T. Clydesdale (David T Clydesdale Music; orchestration available).
This selection requires an excellent tenor and soprano vocalist. If you choose to use an orchestra, it also requires good horn players. The choir parts are moderate to difficult with difficult rhythms throughout the piece.
"All Hail the Power of Jesus' Name"; "Crown Him King of Kings," words and music by Sharon DaMazio; "Crown Him with Many Crowns," arr. Ron Ferlito. A medley of the three selections can be found in the 1997 Celebration Hymnal (Word and Integrity Music).
An alternative to the above resource is a contemporary arrangement on "All Hail the Power of Jesus' Name" by Blair Masters. My assistant Glenn Moerdyk has transcribed and adapted it for congregation use, and I had a band arrangment done by Chris R. Hansen (see p. 26-27). Hansen has composed many contemporary arrangements of traditional hymns. They are available from Fairhaven Ministries, 2900 Baldwin, Hudsonville, MI 49426; 616-662-2100. A full choral version of "Crown Him King of Kings" can be found in the musical God with Us, an Integrity Hosanna! Music publication. This version offers a more complete accompaniment and also orchestration. Because the song repeats in three different keys, I normally choose the two keys that work best in the medley, A-flat and A. Finally, a contemporary version of "Crown Him with Many Crowns" is available from Training Resources, 8929 Old LeMay Ferry Road, Hillsboro, MO 63050. This version uses an interesting rhythm in the accompaniment and an updated text.
Our Gifts of Tithes and Offerings
Ministry of Music (Vocal Solo)
"The King of Who I Am," words and music by Tanya Goodman and Michael Sykes; 101 Solos and Duets (Lillenas).
Message: "The King and I"
Scripture: Philippians 2:5-11
What does it mean for me to acknowledge that Jesus Christ is my Lord? In this famous passage from chapter 2, Paul reveals Christ's lordship as our ultimate motivation and his lifestyle as our ultimate model.
As Paul wrote this letter, the cult of the Roman emperor (in which the emperor was lauded in a manner approaching deification) was especially strong in the eastern provinces. This meant that in Philippi, every public event would have included a lofty acknowledgment of the emperor, and he would have been called "Lord and Savior." For a Philippian believer to acknowledge a different Lord and Savior meant placing his or her life on the line for the sake of Christ.
Though the threat of martyrdom is not as immediate for a believer in our late-twentieth-century North American context, following Christ still requires putting our lives on the line. As a Christian, I must submit to Christ's kingship. Submitting to him in such a way mandates that I follow in his footsteps. In chapter 2, you will remember, Paul teaches that a key to joy for the believer is having a lifestyle that reflects Christ in our relationships. We have already seen in the first five verses that such a lifestyle is costly to our pride, but it is also immensely rewarding. Obedience not only brings glory to Christ, but also results in joy-filled relationships.
If I am to follow Christ, I must follow in at least five of his footsteps of servanthood:
1. Self-denial (v. 6). I must give up my rights. From the moment of his birth to his crucifixion, Jesus continually refused to act selfishly. He calls us to follow him by relinquishing our "rights." That's not easy in a culture that is obsessed with the notion of entitlement. We are bombarded with the message that we have an inalienable right to be the center of attention. Our fallen hearts drift quite naturally and eagerly toward self-promotion, not self-denial.
The lies are loud and clear: the key to joy is getting, and the key to becoming somebody is to continually look out for "number one." Yet in Mark 10:43-45 Jesus teaches and models quite a contrary view: "Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." (See also Matt. 16:24-26.)
2. Identification (w. 7-8b). I must walk in the shoes of those I am serving. Jesus identified with us in our frailty, our temptations, our suffering, our disappointment. He calls us to align ourselves with those whom he has called us to serve. Without mimicking their flaws, we are to identify with their situation.
3. Obedience (v. 8c). I must be motivated by God's will, not my own. Only in the instance of a divine Person (who did not have to die) could death be described as "obedience." "Obedience" is a very appropriate term to describe the death of the infinite Son of God.
A great temptation in the arena of servanthood is to allow the agenda of those I am serving to become my ultimate concern. If Christ had adopted such a stance in his servanthood of us, he would have merely entertained the people with miracles and become a political messiah: that's all many were expecting. As I follow in Christ's footsteps of being a servant, my primary motivation must be his approval and not the approval of those I am serving. I must serve God's agenda for their lives. And though he will determine the path we take, we must never forget it will always be a downward one.
4. Sacrifice (v. 8d). I must "go the distance." Christ did not stop shy of the ultimate service of the Father's agenda: his death on our behalf. Paul's emphasis here is not on the sacrificial nature of Christ's death (though it is, of course, implied), but on his humiliation. The phrase "even death on a cross" emphasizes the immensity of the price and the depth of Christ's humiliation. The cross was not the way a Roman citizen reading this letter would have been treated. Because of its degrading character, the cross was an offense, a stumbling block.
You won't find it on a greeting card, but true love involves self-sacrifice! "Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends." Authentic love that brings joy to both the giver (see Heb. 12:2) and the recipient (see
Song Title Here
The opening measures of a band arrangement of "All Hail The Power of Jesus' Name" by Chris Hansen (see p. 23)
Ps. 90:14 and Philemon 7) does not stop short. It "goes the distance." It costs. Christlike attitudes and actions cost us our pride, our self-centered-ness, our life! In the words of Amy Carmichael, "Can he have followed [Christ] far, who has no wound, no scar?"
5. Satisfaction (vv. 9-11). I will know the Father's smile. Christ was exalted as a result of his obedience. Though of course not in the same realm, we can still enjoy the Father's exaltation. As men and women who already know salvation based on Christ's finished work of redemption, we can obey as a result of our salvation and thereby be exalted as his children. "The greatest among you will be your servant. For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted" (Matt. 23:11-12). We can know his pleasure and his blessing in our relationships as we follow in the King's footsteps.
As we follow in Christ's footsteps and reflect him in our relationships, the legacy of our lives becomes giving rather than getting, serving rather than being served, and obedience rather than indulgence. The result is the clear visibility of Jesus Christ's Lordship in our lifestyles.
Musical Response (choir)
"At the Name of Jesus," text adapted from Philippians 2:6-11, music by Cindy Berry (Word Music, SATB anthem; full orchestration available).
Closing Response (congregation)
"He Is Lord"
"Crown Him with Many Crowns, " band arrangement by Chris R. Hansen derived from Michael W. Smith's adaptation.