Fifth Sunday of Lent 2016: The Epistle Passage – What do you yearn for?

. . . even though I, too, have reason for confidence in the flesh.” (Philippians 3:4b)

This portion of verse puzzled me; maybe it puzzled you too, beloved reader. But then I read verse 5 and it became clear.

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.” (Verses 4c to 6)

Paul, who had been Saul, was a “Jew’s Jew.” Born into the correct family, had the correct training, was zealous for the Lord and obeyed all the commandments as understood by the Jews – yes, he was one of the “golden boys” of his time.

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.” (Verses 7 to 9)

What do you regard as “loss” beloved reader? What do you value that pales in comparison to Christ and the good news that he brought? One of the many tasks of Lent is to take stock of ourselves, and to see what we have worked towards. What have obtained and what have we accomplished that is of true and lasting value.

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.” (Verses 10 to 11)

We value and hold on to so many things in this life; in fact it seems that our entire lives are spent in acquiring those things that make US feel good. But those “feel goods” can be so fleeting. I am not saying I am less culpable of this than anyone else. I stop, or am stopped if truth be told, and consider the hurry and scurry that I and everyone else is involved in. We focus so much on the here and now that we don’t realize – this world is not all there is. And what lies ahead is so much more precious and worthy than what we have now.

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.” (Verses 12 – 14)

I will be one of the first ones to admit that Paul can be very melodramatic; I can be too. But this important stuff. And we need to pay attention to it. It is good that the season of Lent and such scripture passages help us to heed these things and focus on them. May you, beloved reader, work and strive towards those things that are important. Selah!