Everything you wanted to know about Christianity
at the Anglican Parish of the Otways
Please join me each week for our reflections
of sermons conducted during our church service.
Plus, occasional splashes of humour and epiphanies!
With much Love and Blessings
Rev. Jenny Brandon
IN Philippians chapter 3,
Paul used the image of a race
to picture the Christian life
as one of constant movement into God's future.
Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. Phllippians 3:13-14
In chapter 4 he continues,
but exhorts us to stand firm in one place.
Pressing forward and standing firm in one place –
how are these images to be reconciled?
Without grounding ourselves in the settled presence of Christ,
the depiction of the life of faith as a race
quickly becomes frantic and destructive.
Indeed, given the pace of most contemporary life,
we certainly do not need more frantic activity.
We need, rather, to rest in Christ's presence at each moment,
neither nostalgic for the past
nor fantasizing about a future we cannot yet see.
When we do so,
we find that Christ carries us forward very quickly indeed,
yet at the same time there is always enough time
for what truly needs to be done.
What needs to be done, in Paul's view,
is to live by the promise that Christ will transform us,
and will subject all things to himself (Philippians 3:21).
This promise has quite specific effects in the present.
It issues in a call to
Paul then commands us to rejoice!
How surprising this is,
coming from the horrors of a Roman prison.
The reason is not difficult to find: "The Lord is near."
Paul knows without doubt that Christ is returning,
and he experiences the nearness of God in Christ,
even in his present captivity.
Since we are beset with anxieties
that get in the way of rejoicing,
he tells us to pray in everything,
no matter how trivial or how insurmountable,
to the God who loves us.
Christ will meet us at the place of worry,
because Christ has descended to the depths of human despair.
Therefore God has become for us
the God whose peace "guards" our minds and hearts.
Next Paul tells us to focus our minds on what is true,
honourable, just, pure, pleasing, commendable,
excellent and worthy of praise.
We live in the immediate reality of a world in which
human beings are constantly at war somewhere, betraying
one another, brutally suppressing each other in order to
get ahead, and so forth.
But Paul also sees another reality,
and it is the reality of God's redemption, as a result of the
Resurrection, already here and still drawing near.
Training our minds to think of this reality,
and thereby to act with hope,
is a daily mental discipline.
For such a discipline,
we need to experience the counter reality of God's rule
in the midst of tangible human relationships.
Finally, once again Paul promises that the outcome of these habits
of heart and mind is "peace that surpasses all understanding."
Confident, therefore, in the ultimate victory of the God of peace, he encourages us to have quiet minds and hopeful hearts.
Let us be of one mind in the Lord,
practicing setting our minds on what is true, honourable,
just, pure, pleasing, commendable,
excellent and worthy of praise on a daily basis.
Particularly in the midst of our turmoil,
because when we do that,
we will see Christ in the midst of our situation.
This allows the peace of God
to fill our hearts and our thinking,
enabling us to live as the redeemed people of God.
The Lord be with you.
About the author
Rev. Jenny is an ordained Priest of the Anglican Diocese delivering services at Anglican Parish of the Otway churches every week.
With great depth of knowledge and a spiritual practice that shows she walks her talk and has taken her to the far reaches of N.T. Australia working with indigenous youth and elders.