Day 330 “Press On” Philippians 3 – 4
November 27, 2021, 9:35 AM

Day 330 “Press On” Philippians 3 – 4

Hopefully you are settling into the rhythm of the letters. While we have read surpassing tomes in this Bible, spanning 50 or more chapters, the brevity of the letters can be both refreshing and disappointing because there’s no ‘story’. In Genesis we had all the great stories—Adam and Eve, Noah, Jacob, Joseph. The letters have, obviously, a different purpose than those historic books. The letters are addressed to specific groups of people who are having specific challenges and they need to be encouraged on their Christian walk. Paul is not only respected as the founder of the church at Philippi, he is also an astonishing translator of the mission and life of Christ.

What I mean by that is Paul has the gift of helping people understand the importance of what Jesus accomplished for us all—which includes you and me today. How would we respond if our church received a letter like this? And you could say to me “Well, Mother Laurie, we DO get a letter every week and it is read out loud in church!” Total gold star moment for you!!! That is correct because we hear a portion of an epistle every Sunday, at a minimum. But do we understand it as being a letter of teaching and encouragement for us today, now?

Before I was ordained, I do not remember anyone putting the pieces together for me so that I would understand what we were hearing in church. As I write this, I can see myself as a child in my little home church in downstate NY, Our Lady of the Lake in Lake Carmel, NY, sitting in a pew with my six brothers and sisters, and my father in the middle of us, able to maintain order with a steely stare, which was incredible because that steely stare did not work outside of church!! I remember the environment so clearly, but literally none of the words that were spoken. But something obviously ‘got in’.  I was a child who believed in God and it had to do with those weekly visits to my home church, even though I don’t remember every word (any word??) that I heard in those days. The repetition of a consistent message, and a consistent truth, and consistent worship that was bigger than me became part of who I knew myself to be, and helped form my identity which has not changed much since then—I am a child of God.

Paul speaks to the Christians, the children of God, at Philippi and encourages them to hold fast to eternal truths even while they live on earth. He warns them, as we have heard before, of being confident in their ancestry on earth rather than their citizenship in heaven. Don’t brag about circumcision or heritage or family origin, Paul writes to them, but “hold fast to what we have attained,” (3: 16), which is “to know Christ and the power of his resurrection,” (3: 10).

As I read this part of Philippians, and especially as I read this particular verse, “Our citizenship is in heaven, and it is from there that we are expecting a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ,” (3: 20), my heart resonated. This kind of reminds me of Alistair because, while he lives here in the US, he is a citizen of another country and he holds fast to that citizenship, trying to make sure he keeps a freshness and a connection to that country of origin. Where he comes from is essential to him. As children of God and followers of Jesus, our true place of origin, Heaven, is essential to remember and we need to maintain our connection with that place and that knowledge always. Perhaps our world would be healthier, more accepting, more gracious if we understood that we are all citizens of heaven first, and that we are here to bring bits of kingdom living into the midst of our lives and communities.

I am going to end with a sort of prayer or reflection that has stayed with me for nearly 12 years now called the Lindisfarne, and this was part of the profile that St. John’s put together when they were seeking a new Rector. A profile is a kind of snapshot of the parish in report form so candidates can learn about the parish. I read this prayer/reflection before interviewing here and was so taken by the idea of citizenship in heaven that it attracted me to this place, this job, these people.

 So let me end the blog with the Lindisfarne. The very first line (I put it in boldface) is the one with which I absolutely identify. This short meditation expands on the same idea Paul writes about to the Philippians, and it helps me understand the dichotomy of my own heart, which yearns for heaven, and my very human body, which is called to serve, for now, on earth:

“We are not citizens of this world trying to make our way to heaven;

we are citizens of heaven trying to make our way through this world.

That radical Christian insight can be life-changing.

We are not to live so as to earn God’s love, inherit heaven, and purchase our salvation.

All those are given to us as gifts: gifts bought by Jesus on the

cross and handed over to us. We are to live as God’s redeemed,

as heirs of heaven, and the citizens of another land: the Kingdom of God.

The worst sin is not failure or being outvoted or losing,

as the world tells us. We live as those who are on a journey home:

a home we know will have the lights on and the door open and our Father

waiting for us when we arrive. That means in all adversity, our worship

of God is joyful, our life is hopeful, our future is secure.

There is nothing we can lose on earth that can rob us

of the treasures God has given us, and will give us.”

-The Lindisfarne


Be blessed and be a blessing to others,


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