4th October 2020
“Press on for the goal”
We will share the readings and prayers together on Facebook Livestream at 10am on Sunday but we also invite you to use the readings, reflections and prayers as part of a time of contemplation. Find a quiet place to sit inside or outside to do this.
Ruth, Margaret, Mike and Nigel.
PRAYER OF APPROACH
God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit –
calls us to set our sights on the goal
of following and living in the way of Christ.
God calls to us follow now.
as we journey towards the goal you set before us,
we see glimpses of who you are,
often too deep and unimaginable
to grasp fully the depth of your being.
What we see and feel spurs us on
in our journey to discover more of you.
God of the journey of life,
the mystery of our very being,
we confess that the journey we take
gets disrupted and we get sidetracked.
We go off on wild goose chases that lead us nowhere,
up blind alleys and into bad and barren places.
We find our way back to you in sorrow for our failings
and in penitence for our wanderings.
May we be enriched by your welcome,
relieved by your forgiveness
and comforted by your all-embracing love.
READING – Philippians 3.4b-14.
4If anyone else has reason to be confident in the flesh, I have more:
circumcised on the eighth day,
a member of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin,
a Hebrew born of Hebrews;
as to the law, a Pharisee;
as to zeal, a persecutor of the church;
as to righteousness under the law, blameless.
7Yet whatever gains I had,
these I have come to regard as loss because of Christ.
More than that, I regard everything as loss
because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.
For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things,
and I regard them as rubbish,
in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him,
not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law,
but one that comes through faith in Christ,
the righteousness from God based on faith.
I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection
and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death,
if somehow I may attain the resurrection from the dead.
12Not that I have already obtained this or have already reached the goal;
but I press on to make it my own,
because Christ Jesus has made me his own.
13Beloved, I do not consider that I have made it my own;
but this one thing I do:
forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead,
14I press on towards the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus.
When the reading from Philippians is broken down into three parts, we see clearly Paul’s message. Our mission is not to look to the past but to keep our minds set on the call of God as we strive forward.
In the first part (verse 4 to 6), Paul is talking about his past life as a Pharisee. What he had achieved and who he was. In the second part (verse 7 to 11), Paul recognises that his past life was gone and this had been replaced with a faith in Christ. He had gained a new way of life and this was far more valuable than what he had in the past. He had been transformed. But there is a sense that however good Paul felt his new life was, he realises there is more to be discovered. Greater things to be revealed. He was finding out more and wanted to know more as he followed the call of God in Christ.
In the third part (verse 12 to 14), Paul makes it clear that he was focussed on the future and he was ‘pressing on’ to reach out to Christ, just as Christ was reaching out to Paul. In verses 13 and 14 Paul recognises that in order to reach his goal, his focus must be on the future and not in the past.
Paul was pressing on towards the ‘goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus’ (verse 14). That is where he is headed – that is his destination. He is ‘straining forward to what lies ahead’. He sounds like a man desperate to get to where he is going. The word ‘straining’ implies it is not easy but he is putting every ounce of his strength into it. Reminiscent perhaps of a horse straining against its harness as it pulls a heavy load.
The reading asks a question of us. What is our goal and how much effort are we putting into striving to overcome the difficulties we face and in finding our goal?
The Greek word that translates into ‘my own’ and ‘his own’ in verse 12 is the same and this double use is intentional. It shows that we do not reach our goals through by our own efforts alone. Our striving and discovery is guided by God’s grace.
Over the past six months our themes during worship, in the Morning Worship services and other services, have continually explored what God is saying to us in our lives during the pandemic. To an extent like Paul, we have lost the ways of life we had before Covid came along. But we have also found new ways of life – our on-line worship is one example. As for progress to our goal and following the call of God we have started to come together for worship in church. These services in church are quite different to the way we knew before, but we are sharing our worship together in person.
Paul message to us though is to be mindful of the risk in a focus on returning to worship in the church as a way of getting back to the normality of the past. Being in church to worship is good but our services and presence on-line enriches our worship. Recognise the good things we are seeing in our new ways of life – not just worship but all the other aspects of our life as a community. Strive to explore and discover more of these new ways of life.
Remember, our striving for and the discovery of ‘the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus’ is guided by God’s grace and by God’s presence with us at all times.
THE LORD’S PRAYER
Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.
Your Kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us.
Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power and the glory are yours.
Now and for ever. Amen
God of our lives, as we go out from here,
we remember we are on the path of our Christian life.
Its foundations, full of all that has gone before,
are part of the scaffold of our lives.
We trust you to guide us,
to give us the strength, the courage and the persistence we need
to follow where you lead even if the path is tough.
Be our guide, we pray.
May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ,
And the love of God,
And the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us all, now and evermore.
Posted by Nigel Smetham on Sunday, October 4, 2020