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A New Thing

April 8, 2019

Byzantine Fresco

Scripture Philippians 3:4b-9, 13-14

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.

Philippians 3:13b-14 NRSV

As springtime continues to emerge around us, we can look to scripture and find a sense of new creation and a reminder of the power of God, particularly in portions of Isaiah (43:16-19). In the same way, the apostle Paul writes to the church at Philippi and addresses them much like the prophet Isaiah spoke to the people of Judah hundreds of years before. Paul acknowledges the power of the law that the Jewish faithful want to preserve. He even identifies with it, noting his own contributions to upholding the law. He was a Pharisee, and he had been brought up in the faith. Before meeting the Risen Christ, Paul (then known as Saul) was a zealot who openly persecuted the new faith of the early church: those who followed and believed in God through Jesus Christ. Paul arrested church leaders and wholly approved of eliminating the new believers, followers of the Risen Christ.

But, like the leaves that fall from the trees, Paul says that all of that power and zeal and authority that he had was lost. It remains in the past. Paul affirms its importance, but he points to a new future that the entire church shares in Jesus Christ. And, Paul notes that this new thing that has taken over his life and his work can never be destroyed. It draws him deeper and deeper into daily commitment to God through Jesus Christ. Paul is called by God to this unique role of leading the newly born church of Jesus Christ.

God continues to do a new thing. The Risen Christ continues to call us, the church he created, into new areas of service and ministry. Because of God’s promise in Christ, the church of Jesus Christ is not going away and actually has a pretty healthy future in this time with so many individuals immersed in spiritual seeking. Sadly, this seeking coincides with an overall distrust of institutions, such as the church. Despite the many challenges, the future of the church is a good one- because of Christ. Through him, we maintain a spirit of giving. Through Christ, we become new, growing into a spirit of living that follows him. We live into and through a spirit of movement toward the good that is Christ and away from those things that might hinder us.

So, as Paul informs us where are you and I being called? Is it even possible to understand that call on our own, apart from God? In this season of Lent, what are we preparing to do as a new thing?

Stan Reid


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