Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Philippians 3.4b-14 for 5th Sunday in Lent (year C)

Lectionary Discussion Group:Philippians 3.4b-14 for 5th Sunday in Lent (Year C): Cecil Charles Prescod

Heidelberg Catechism.
Question 1. What is thy only comfort in life and death?
Answer: That I with body and soul, both in life and death, am not my own, but belong unto my
faithful Saviour Jesus Christ; who, with his precious blood, has fully satisfied for all my sins, and
delivered me from all the power of the devil; and so preserves me that without the will of my heavenly Father, not a hair can fall from my head; yea, that all things must be subservient to my salvation,
and therefore, by his Holy Spirit, He also assures me of eternal life, and makes me sincerely willing and ready, henceforth, to live unto him.

Within the comfortable and familiar settings of our churches we read the joy filled remarks of a person who has abandoned any signs of privilege and embraced a way of life that led to his abandonment of his community, persecution, and martyrdom. In a culture that honors and celebrates the strong and self confident, we listen to the apostle's words that reminds us that our calling is to follow and embrace the Crucified One. Paul calls us to reject the good life, to turn in the key to security, and walk away.

John Calvin writes: “He says, that those things were gain to him, for ignorance of Christ is the sole reason why we are puffed up with a vain confidence. Hence, where we see a false estimate of one’s own excellence, where we see arrogance, where we see pride, there let us be assured that Christ is not known. On the other hand, so soon as Christ shines forth all those things that formerly dazzled our eyes with a false splendor instantly vanish, or at least are disesteemed. Those things, accordingly, which had been gain to Paul when he was as yet blind, or rather had imposed upon him under an appearance of gain, he acknowledges to have been loss to him, when he has been enlightened. Why loss? Because they were hinderances in the way of his coming to Christ. What is more hurtful than anything that keeps us back from drawing near to Christ? Now he speaks chiefly of his own righteousness, for we are not received by Christ, except as naked and emptied of our own righteousness. Paul, accordingly, acknowledges that nothing was so injurious to him as his own righteousness, inasmuch as he was by means of it shut out from Christ.” ( Commentaries on the Epistle of Paul to the Philippians, Colossians, and Thessalonians).

The Pauline call to to place our confidence in Jesus, and Jesus alone, is appropriate during the season of of Lent, because it is a call that requires deep reflection. In a sermon entitled Call to be Odd, the Rev. Belinda Windham proclaims,”The southern wit, Flannery OʼConnor, once quipped, 'You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you odd.' Through our faith in Jesus Christ we know that we are accepted and loved no matter how odd others may think we are. For surely there has never been a God more odd than ours, who out of love for us
chose to become one of us and to abandon divine power and die for us, conquering death, so that we might never die. And thatʼs the truth.”

So how do we who enjoy the prestige and privileges of our society throw away these as “ dung” and embrace a life of rejection, persecution, and death? How do “we become like him in his death, that if possible 'we” may attain the resurrection from the dead”?

Marius Victorinus, a 4th century African Neo-platonic philosopher, whose conversion at an advanced age made an impression on Augustine, offer this suggestion: “here then are two precepts for the one who is going to live the rest of life walking in the Christian way. First, the one who is still living under divine governance, however well and rightly he has acted in the past, should not think about all the actions he has already done as though he deserved to obtain something by them. Rather he should cast them into oblivion, always seeking the new tasks that remain. Second, he should nonetheless keep living under the divine rule, continually pressing on toward these things and observing the rule of Christ, even to death” (Epistle to the Philippians 3.13-14)

What do you think?

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