Our citizenship is in heaven,
and from it we also await a savior,
the Lord Jesus Christ.
He will change our lowly body
to conform with his glorified body
by the power that enables him also
to bring all things into subjection to himself.
Citizenship is an intreguing word in a religious context, isn’t it? The commentators Bonnie Thurston and Judith Ryan in the Liturgical Press’s series Sacra Pagina remind us that in Roman times a group of foreigners were permitted a “citizenship,” or the granting of a separate community with their own modes of governance. The apostle suggests here that the Christians at Philippi were in a like situation: they lived within the boundary of the Roman Empire, but they were aligned with Christ and the government of their Head.
The same commentators also point out the paradox of the Christian life. We live in an already-Reign of God, which on another level, has yet to be fully realized. This is a perfect segue into the nature of death and the Christian approach to it. We are mortal beings and our physical bodies die. Yet our hope is anchored in the yet-to-be. We hope that our deceased companions will experience the promised transformation we believe is within the power of Christ.
Paul alludes to the Kenosis hymn earlier in this letter (Phil 2:6-11) in noting that if we are in conformity with Christ, we will share in the transformative power of out Savior. We will be raised up from slavery to death. We willingly subject ourselves to Christ, as he subjected himself to the Father’s will. Our deceased loved ones, in this subjection, will be raised as Christ was. A very basic, yet very profound hope, and eminently suitable for a Christian funeral.
Please choose this reading for my funeral. I like the subtle connection to Philippians 2. I struggle to conform to Christ’s example. I certainly desire that transformation. If you or your loved one has thoughts along these lines, this will be a good choice for your funeral days as well. Only two verses, and very easy to overlook, but what a powerful statement of Christian hope it packs!