Here is my sermon from this morning’s Eucharist. The first reading, Philippians 3:3-9a, leads into what I consider a very important passage regarding faith and the Power of Christ’s Resurrection, so I went on to preach about next 7 verses including the rest of verse 9. After the last few weeks of our Br. Tom Shaw’s illness and his death, and the wake and funeral, along with the recent newspaper articles about the illness Ebola, I had begun to feel a certain need concerning my sense of mortality. I recovered my faith and hope meditating on these words from Paul’s letter to the Philippians.
My first thought, when reading through the lessons for today’s Eucharist, was to see if a particular theme might jump out at me that would develop as a sermon. As I read today’s selection from Paul’s letter to the Philippians my reaction was to skip over those sentences about his Jewish background as less important. I thought I might concentrate on Paul’s realization of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus as his Lord. I saw that background only as some help for understanding what followed.
As I continued to read over the whole passage I saw more clearly that the way Paul described his earlier life as a Jew was not just background for later developments.
I began to see how Paul wanted to contrast his earlier life with the time after he came to know Jesus. One of the contrasts was the perception that the righteousness that comes through faith in Christ is far more important than the righteousness that comes from the law. (Cf. v. 9)
As I read on I began to have sharper focus on passages that had struck me with deep meaning in years past. I felt that I should include the rest of that chapter that went beyond this morning’s reading (at least down to v. 17). This chapter has long been one of my favorite passages.
In this chapter there is a strong emphasis on the importance of faith in Jesus’ Resurrection and in Paul’s own hope of “knowing Christ and the power of his resurrection.” (v.10) Paul went on to say, “Not that I have already obtained this … but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. … Forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Vv. 12-14)
We also can have strong hope in “knowing Christ and the power of his resurrection” in proportion to our faith in Christ and the power of his resurrection.
Recently, not knowing how many more years I may live in this world, I have found both hope and strength in meditating on those words of Paul.
Can you feel the power of these words? Can you press on toward the heavenly call of God? We can do this in the
strength of God’s gifts of Faith, Hope, and Love.
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