A sermon preached by the Rev. Beth Maynard
If you could go back in time and ask Ralph Adams Cram, the renowned architect of this church, what he meant by Gothic style, I’m sure you would get a very complex answer. I wish I were able to be at Adult Forum today to hear more about how Emmanuel’s building reflects Cram’s ideals. However, I think one part of his answer, and probably the major part of the answer you’d get from most of us amateurs if you asked us to describe Gothic style, would be this: It has arches.
Specifically, arches that soar up and come to a point at the top. Our arches here are in an earlier, less pointy style than some, but as you look around our building you’ll see arches everywhere. Even from the outside. And it’s quite lovely, I think, that the same day we feature Cram, we also have probably the most famous poetic arch in Scripture in our Epistle reading. ....
The poetic arch that sits in the middle of today’s text from Philippians, scholars think, is probably a hymn that Paul is quoting, a familiar text everyone would already know. I wish it were printed as poetry in your insert today, but you can hear the reverse arcing movement, the down and then up, as it’s read.
[Christ Jesus], though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited,
but emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness.
And being found in human form,
he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death--
even death on a cross.
[There’s the bottom point of the arch; and now we move back up.]
Therefore God also highly exalted him
and gave him the name that is above every name,
so that at the name of Jesus
every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue should confess
that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
You can hear that arcing movement: From the ultimate height, equality with God, all the way down to the depths of human degradation, and back up into God’s life again.
There are so many things one could say about this extraordinary text, this great reverse arch. But the two that I want to focus on today are first, what it shows us about God himself, and then, what it shows us about how God does business with us.