3:17 - 4:1
There are two titles
in this passage, the sermon text for this morning, which I hope will
stand out for those who were present last
The text comes from
Paul's letter to the Philippians, chapter 3, verse 17, through chapter
4, verse 1:
Brothers and sisters,
join in imitating me, and observe those who live according to the
example you have in us. 18For many live as
enemies of the cross of Christ; I have often told you of them, and now
I tell you even with tears. 19Their end is
destruction; their god is the belly; and their glory is in their
shame; their minds are set on earthly things. 20But
our citizenship is in heaven, and it is from there that we are
expecting a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. 21He
will transform the body of our humiliation so that it may be conformed
to the body of his glory, by the power that also enables him to make
all things subject to himself.
1Therefore, my brothers
and sisters, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in
the Lord in this way, my beloved.
Now, those titles
are? It goes to prove my point that we've become so accustomed to
this language that it doesn't stand out for us. "Lord"
and "Savior" -- now, I could go back and repeat that sermon
from last Sunday. . . . . no, no, no. Alright J.
But as you may
recall, part of the point I was making is that in the world of Paul, the
name most commonly associated with the titles Lord and Savior was. . . .
.Caesar. Especially Caesar Augustus, and to a lesser extent the
Caesar's the followed him.
Two more pieces of
historical data about the city of Philippi will enhance your
understanding of this particular text.
First of all, the
church in Philippi was the first church founded by Paul and hence he has
a strong emotional attachment to it. And they to him. And so
we see, for instance, in the text for this morning, Paul says
"Therefore my brothers and sisters, whom I love and long for, my
joy and my crown". There is a deep affection there, for
the folk in Philippi. And indeed, one of the reasons for Paul's
writing of this letter was to thank them for their support of him during
Secondly, Philippi is
in eastern Greece. But it was a Roman colony where a majority of
the citizens were Romans, not Greeks. Probably at least 60%.
Paul draws on that image, in verse 20, when he writes: "Our
citizenship is in heaven". The word for 'citizenship' in
Greek normally is "politeiša", from the Greek word
"polis", from which we get 'politics'. The city state,
and the Greek philosophy around those notions of democracy.
But that's not the
word Paul uses here. Instead, Paul uses "polišteuma", a
word also derived from 'polis'. But "polišteuma" can
also mean 'commonwealth' as well as 'citizenship'. If you look in
your Bible, there's a footnote after the word 'citizen'. And it's
a little tiny letter, I think it's a letter 'g' in the Pew Bibles.
You'll see down in the margins at the bottom there's the footnote, and
it will say "or, commonwealth".
Now, if the
translation of the scripture you're reading uses 'commonwealth' (some
do), you'll probably have a footnote that will say "or,
citizen". It can be either.
Recall from last
Sunday, Octavian and Anthony defeated Brutus and Cassius (the assassins
of Julius Caesar) where? Trick question -- I didn't tell you last
Well, you could probably guess -- yep, in the plains outside of
And so the death of
Julius Caesar was avenged. And then Anthony, as a reward to his
soldiers, gave that region to one of his generals, to then divvy up the
land among his trusted troops.
Ten years later, when
Octavian defeats Anthony for control of the throne of the Roman Empire
and becomes Augustus, he can't very well allow this loyal follower of
Anthony to continue to control that region of Philippi. So he
displaces him and puts one of his own in control of the region, so the
troops in that area are loyal to Augustus.
Now, I know you're
all as fascinated with this history as I am, right? What do the
Greeks call a colony established for veterans, such as Philippi
was? I'll give you a hint -- it's not Walter Reed J.
The standards for treatment of wounded soldiers was a little higher back
in the days of Caesar than in our day, apparently. It was polišteuma.
Polišteuma was the term for that kind of colony.
Polišteuma was the
Roman equivalent of a military pension -- you did your time of service,
and as a reward, you're given a little villa on the shores of the
Mediterranean. And there you can nurse your wounds and restore
So here we have this
community with lots of old, retired Roman soldiers and their
families. A polišteuma who hold Caesar as Lord and Savior.
And Paul says to them: "Our polišteuma is in
heaven". It is from there, not Rome, that we are expecting a
Lord a Savior.
In other words, Paul
is deliberately contrasting Philippi, the Roman colony, with heaven, a
Christian colony, if you will. And says: we don't belong to
this one, we belong to that one. We are citizens of that foreign
country. Only the point is not that we are trying to get back
home, but rather that we are to live by the standards of that foreign
The saying was not so
much "When in Rome, do as the Romans do", it was rather
"If you are a Roman, you will do as Romans do wherever you
are". It was expected that you took the values of your
culture with you, and lived by that wherever you were. And Paul is
saying the same thing, then, to the church of Philippi, and calls them
to a higher set of values and standards. We expect you to live by
this standard, by this commonwealth, not by that one.
Paul, then, says
those who succumb to the temptation of this realm, be it Roman,
American, or whatever, Paul calls 'enemies of the cross'. Their
God is the belly, they glory in their shame, their minds are set on
things of this world, not of God's world.
To be part of this polišteuma,
this commonwealth, or colony of heaven, is to live by a different
standard. Not only as an individual, as citizens, but as a
community. As a commonwealth. To recreate a bit of that
colony of heaven here on earth. To be a reflection of the
commonwealth of heaven, here an now.
I'd like to
illustrate this this morning with just one example. And that is
the community of Le Chambon. Wonderful story, not one that I have
told before. Andrč and Magda Trocmč, were born in 1901.
She in Italy of Russian descent, he in France from a long line of
Hugenots, the fiercly independent protestants loyal to John Calvin.
In 1934 the Trocmč's
were called to serve the protestant parish in a Hugenot community of Le
Chambon, a community of about 3,000 people in southeast France.
Andrč was introduced to the concept of Christian non-violence oddly
enough by a German soldier during the first world war, when that area of
France was occupied by Germany, where he lived. And this
particular soldier, when he confronted Andrč and Andrč was very
frightened by him, and he told him "No, you don't have to be
afraid, I'm a Christian". Yeah, so what we've heard that
before, right? "No, no no, you don't understand, I'm a
pacifist. I do not carry a weapon". And told him that
because of the call of the gospel that he believed -- kind of like the
bumper sticker you see these days: When Jesus said 'Love your
enemies', he probably mean 'Do not kill them'.
And so he refused to
carry a weapon, and instead of being sent to prison as you might expect,
his commander gave him the job of being a telegraph operator on the
front lines. That was a very dangerous position, because the way
you took out the communication system, you see, was to look for the
telegraph operator. So he agreed to that, as part of his
commitment to his colleagues and to his nation, as well as to remain a
At any rate, Andrč
was so taken by that as a young man that he went on to study in the
Christian ministry, particularly pacifism and non-violence. When
he became a pastor in Le Chambon in 1934, he decided as part of that
role to start a school for non-violence in Le Chambon. When the
war broke out in 1939, he had 4 teachers (only 1 of which was paid), and
18 students. But the school quickly grew with the influx of
refugees created by the war, not that they flocked to the school because
of its non-violence, but because mostly they just needed a school.
And it had a population of 300 at one time at the school.
In June of 1940,
France fell to Germany. It was divided into two sections, one
occupied by the Germans, the other nominally 'free' -- the Vichy
government. Le Chambon was in that part that was nominally
independent. Eager to please Hitler, the Vichy government
duplicated the infamous Nuremberg laws against Jews, and decided to
build their national unity around a common enemy -- the Jews, and
promoted hatred for all things Jewish.
When the school
resumed in the Fall of 1940, all of the schools were required to have a
salute to the flag of the familiar fascism, with a hand straight out
straight. Trochmč, who had traveled through Nazi Germany and knew
what Hitlers fascism really meant, would have none of it. And so
the kitchen resistance began. Quiet, intentional way of living
contrary to the regime. In refusing that salute to the fascist
government, was a very small but hugely significant symbolic act that
demonstrated publicly to the people ole Le Chambon that all those
sermons given by their pastor about resisting evil with the power of
love were more than mere words.
One story in
particular typifies the spirit of the people of Le Chambon. August
1st, 1941, was declared a new national holiday to honor a new chapter in
the French Legion that was formed, modeled after the German SS.
Marshal Petain, the head of the government, decreed that all bells were
to be rung at noon on August 1st, for 15 minutes, for this national
the custodian of the church not to comply, and then went off and did his
business. The next day, he found the custodian, her name was
Amelie, and asked her:
Amelie," the pastor asked, "everything went off well
yesterday? No incidents?"
went off well, Monsieur Trocme. There was nothing
now, Amelie, You were not visited by anyone?"
but yes, ... There were two ladies from up there" [motioning] to
the northern hills of Le Chambon. "You know, hose painted ladies
who speak proper French." Silence.
was referring to the people who had come to Le Chambon for the summer
from the great cities, and who lived upon the hills in handsome
villas. Their cosmetics and their classic French were all that
interested Amelie about them.
they came to look for me. And they said, 'You are not ringing the
bell, Amelie? it is a national holiday today!' 'The passe-teur gave no
order,' I told them. 'Oh, well,' they told me, 'we would really be
surprised if he had allowed it to be rung, your pastor! Come,
Amelie, hurry! It is noon! And it is an order from the marshal!'"
of Amelie's meager repertoire of expressions was a little,
crooked smile on one side of her mouth. This smile appeared suddenly
as she looked up at the pastor. It was the almost mischievous,
youthful smile of protesters who are in complete command of their
what did you say?"
told them that that bell does not belong to the marshal, but to
God. It is rung for God--otherwise it is not rung." ...
And then what happened?"
they ordered me to open the big front door, and they told me that they
would ring the bell themselves. But I did not want to do that.
Then I defended my temple!" ...
how did it all end, Amelie?"
that smile, but now here eyes were round. "oh, you remember,
Monsieur Trocme, yesterday at noon it was raining spears, hard.
I was under the lintel of the big door. The painted ladies were out in
the courtyard. Soon they were dripping wet, and they left."
Well, it wasn't long
before the first Jewish refugee came knocking on the door of the Trocmč
home. Magda Trocmč took her in and helped her eventually to flee
the country to Switzerland. Before long, a steady stream of Jewish
refugees found their way to Le Chambon. Trocmč organized
like-minded parishioners and school families into a network of safe
houses, turning Le Chambon into a city of refuge based on the concept of
refuge in Deuteronomy 19, where the blood of an innocent person may not
be shed in any city of refuge.
When word finally
reached government officials of the activities in Le Chambon in the
summer of 1942, police officers were sent with several buses, and Trocmč
was ordered to reveal the location of all the Jews in the
community. He refused, said he knew no Jews, only human
beings. And besides, he said, the shepherd does not betray the
sheep entrusted to him. He was given 24 hours, or he would face
arrest. That night the town's lighting system
"mysteriously" failed. Boy scouts and Sunday-school
leaders fanned out through the town and the neighboring farms and under
the cover of darkness, hundreds of Jews disappeared into the
night. According to pre-arranged escape plans.
search the next day turned up only a single elderly suspect, who was
proved not to be of sufficient Jewish ancestry to face
deportation. Unable to find any hiding Jews, the authorities had
no grounds on which to arrest Trocmč. And so the saga of
hide-and-seek and cat-and-mouse gaming began for another year, each time
the stakes growing higher, but each time the authorities leaving empty
And then in February
1943, the order came to arrest Trocmč and two leaders of the
school. They were taken to a French concentration camp for
political prisoners and held for a month. And then when given an
opportunity to be released if they would sign an oath of loyalty to the
Vichy government, they declined. Trocmč said 'If we sign, we must
keep our word. We must surrender our conscience to the
government. No, we will not bind ourselves to obey immoral
Unbeknownst to them,
the Vichy government was losing confidence in the ability of the Germans
to stop an Allied invasion. Wanting to win favor with the British,
they decided to release them anyway. So they were released the
next day. The Nazi government, however, put Trocmč on their
wanted list, forcing him to go underground into hiding until France was
liberated later in 1944.
To this day, no one
knows how many thousands of lives were saved by the community of Le
Chambon. No records were kept, out of necessity. But Magda
Trocmč recalls over 60 Jews who stayed in their home alone over the
course of those three years. When credited with doing something
truly good, she said "How can you call us good? We were doing
what had to be done. Who else could help? Things had to be
done, that's all. And we happened to be there to do them.
You must understand that it was the most natural thing in the world to
help these people".
Philip Hallie, a
professor of philosophy and wrote the book, discovered this story by
accident as he was doing research on ethical issues raised by the war,
and wrote the book "Lest Innocent Blood Be Shed: The Story of
the Village of Le Chambon, and how goodness happened there", he writes
in his conclusion:
would understand the goodness that happened in LeChambon, we must see
how easy it was for them to refuse to give up their consciences, to
refuse to participate in hatred, betrayal, and murder, and to help the
desperate adults and the terrified children who knocked on their doors
in Le Chambon.
must see this, and we must also see the many elements that came
together to make these things happen. Goodness is the simplest
thing in the world, and the most complex, like opening a door. ...
who share Trocme's and the Chambonnais' beliefs in the
preciousness of human life, may never have the moral strength to be
much like the Chambonnais or like Trocme; but I know what I want to
have the power to be. I know that I want to have a door in the
depths of my being, a door that is not locked against the faces of all
other human beings. I know that I want to be able to say, from
those depths, "Naturally, come in, and come in."
Such is the
commonwealth of heaven, here on earth. May we live it.