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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Friday, October 2, 2020  

Today’s Scripture Reading  |  Philippians 3:4b–14

If 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. Yet 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. Not 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. Beloved, 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, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus. (NRSV)

This reading from St. Paul to the Philippians has echoes of Jesus’ words to his disciples: “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it” (Matthew 16:24–25). Putting it side by side with St. Paul’s description of his experience I begin to have a sense of what Jesus means.

St. Paul offers a vivid description of what gave him his identity as a faithful, exemplary Jewish man. What he refers to as “the flesh” is his way of saying that before he had focused on the external expectations of what it meant to be upright, to have status in the community. After experiencing Jesus the Christ, however, he realizes that none of these truly define who he is.

He no longer needs to hold on to what gave him status, a sense of righteousness. Now he recognizes that his true identity comes from his participation it the life of Christ, where, as we know, there is no Jew or Greek, male or female.

Can we see how the recognition that in Christ we are all equal, we are all beloved, regardless of our race, background, or anything else that we use to bolster our identity, would change life today? How this would lead to justice and move us closer to being the beloved community?

At this time, O Lord, we see clearly the destruction that comes from believing that some lives matter more than others. By your grace may we, like St. Paul, realize that everyone is worthy and blessed in you, the Christ. Amen.

Written by Margaret M. Brennan, Replogle Center for Counseling and Well-Being

Reflection and prayer © Fourth Presbyterian Church

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