Beloved Members and Friends of St. Martin’s,
In our epistle this weekend, we hear the Apostle Paul describes Jesus as “emptying himself” of all his rightful honor and glory due to him as the Son of God, and instead, as a sign of God’s love for humanity, choosing to be born as one of us. The Greek term for emptying is “kenosis.” In Jesus, as Paul explains, one who was the greatest became a humble human, and not just a human but a peasant in the farthest, out-of-the-way occupied corner of a vast and relentless empire. Jesus faced rejection again and again, even to the point of being accused of being a rebel and blasphemer and dying for it. In the incarnation, Jesus lived out of a love that sustains the world, a love that challenges the calculus of exploitation and injustice. That dedication to love made him an enemy of the state and a threat to those who thought themselves righteous. Jesus did this so that we would know that God has experienced all our suffering, and stands in solidarity beside us. As his disciples, Jesus calls us to be brave enough to likewise empty ourselves—but in our case, what we are called to let go of is what SEPARATES us from each other, and from God. The idea of emptiness, especially in the culture in which we live, can still be scary—in a time of crisis, the human things is to hold tighter to what we have, even if it’s really not good, rather than let go of the familiar. But what exactly is Jesus calling us to let go of and empty ourselves of? What does kenosis mean for us? It actually means freedom, and opportunity for flourishing. Kenosis is emptying ourselves of our willfulness, all of our prerogatives for self- aggrandizement, in order to make room for the beauty of living from in truth, rather than self-delusion, to living for each other in unity rather than fear.
Our hearts are about the size of a fist, but a fist cannot take hold of the good. It’s only when our hearts are open that we feel the presence of God alongside us. This is not the terrifying emptiness of the wilderness, the emptiness of fear and scarcity that besets them and us as we long for proof that God is with us.
This emptiness we are called to embrace is to make room for God within us—so that we can never again wonder where God is, because God will dwell within us and guide us to a deeper faith and unity.
That’s the foundation of discipleship—loving and embracing each other, creating the beloved community in which no one is an outcast. It’s opening ourselves to the possibility of love.