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Daily Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Friday, April 1, 2022  

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)

In November 1931, as the world entered year three of a global economic downturn, a youth leadership organization published this brief message in its monthly newsletter to staff and campers: “Write this on a card . . . tack it on your desk . . .  the newest definition of dePRESSiON.” It was a clever invention for its time, turning “Depression” into “Press On.”

The point of this game of word golf? To remind readers that their summer programs equipped them to “press on, hard,” through the enduring economic depression. Most readers would’ve also connected those words to this very passage in Paul’s letter to the Philippians. Yes, press on through the ups and downs of life, but also press on, as Paul says, toward something beyond ourselves: “The goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”

A few months after this was published, the organization’s founder (a Scottish Presbyterian, I might add) passed away unexpectedly. Those left behind literally referred to pressing on without him, sad as it was. They made it through what we now call the Great Depression, they weathered World War II by building victory gardens and producing food for their summer programs, and in the early 1960s, when a chance fire destroyed the camp’s main cabin area, they rebuilt the cabins over a weekend—and welcomed hundreds of new campers for the conference that opened a few days later. In other words, they made a practice of pressing on, together, because as individuals, they lived their lives toward an even greater purpose.

Likewise, the message to us today is not simply “Push hard through the pandemic, or illness, or social unrest, or fear, or economic loss,” but instead, “Together, we will push through whatever comes our way now, because ultimately we—like Paul—are pressing on toward things that are higher than us.”

Holy Redeemer, in present times we may see through the glass, darkly, but we know that your Light shines beyond it. Keep our hearts and minds focused on that Light, this day and always, as we serve your purposes in this life. Amen.

Written by Sarah Forbes Orwig, Member of Fourth Presbyterian Church

Reflection and prayer © Fourth Presbyterian Church

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