My favorite lyric right now comes from the track “Mouth of the River” on the new Imagine Dragons album Evolve. Unfortunately, I can’t share the track with you because of copyright issues, but I promise you, if you buy the album, you won’t be disappointed. Anyway, the lyric goes like this:
Oh I’m alkaline
I’m always keeping to the basics
I like this line for several reasons. First, it is really nerdy, which I dig. Second, it is really fun to sing, which I need right now. Evolve is my running album and I hate running, so having fun things is good. Third, it restores the word “basic” which has been co-opted of late as pejorative colloquialism to describe “middle class white women who are perceived to predominantly like mainstream products, trends, or music.” (1) or “someone devoid of defining characteristics that might make a person interesting, extraordinary, or just simply worth devoting time or attention to.” (2) I’ve never been a fan of taking words that are commonly used and making them mean something negative or hurtful.
As I listened to that lyric this morning, I was reminded of Paul’s letter to the Philippians, which we will hear read on Sunday (see point one above). From this passage, we receive the Christ Hymn, a recounting of not just Paul’s Christology, but his Christian anthropology as well. In this lesson, heady as it may seem, Paul invites the Christians in Philippi and, by extension, us, to keep it basic. Rather than thinking we know it all or are living lives that are perfectly in tune with God’s will, Paul calls on disciples of Jesus to humility, which was the example of Christ. Though he was both God and man, Jesus did not lord his power over us. Instead, as Paul says so beautifully, Jesus “emptied himself” and “humbled himself” and is therefore “highly exalted.” Jesus kept it basic: he loved and he showed compassion, and he invites his disciples to do the same.
At the end of this passage, Paul admonishes his readers to “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” Through Christ, the Spirit continues to be present within us, helping us to keep it to the basics, not worried about what others are doing, but working out our own salvation with fear and trembling. God at work in us is seen when we love and when we show compassion. It may seem simple, basic (in the pejorative sense) even, but it is the way in which the Kingdom of God is built, one basic compassionate act at a time.