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The Infinitely Valuable, That Leaves All in the Dust; A sermon on Phil. 3:4-14

church at communion 2 The Infinite Valuable

That leaves all in the dust…

Phil. 3:4-14b

 In Jesus Name

 May you realize the infinite value of the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, and as you do, may you not even notice the things left behind.

Value beyond calculation…

Every once in a while, when the lottery gets over 500 million, I wonder what that kind o money would look like, and all the good things that could be done with it.  It is kind of silly, to want to know what kind of money looks like, but interestingly Google has the information.

500,000 dollars in $20 dollar bills would be a stack over 10 feet tall, and it would weigh close to 60 pounds.

Interesting,

It might be difficult to calculate, but it can be done.  And its value?  That is easier to calculate.  A half of a billion dollars could provide

2500 full-ride scholarships for 4 years
It could buy 750 homes for homeless families that live in places like Coyote Creek or the Santa Ana River Trail.
It could provide 5 thousand people health insurance for 10 years.
or it could build 50 new churches and provide them a pastor at district scale for 2 years.
Or perhaps, our dear friend Pr. Bernie could use it for his mission projects in … 6 months? 😊

So its value isn’t infinite

Not even close.

Yet today we are looking that is, enough so that as we realize it, we drop everything, leaving it all behind.

Because what we are given is the infinitely valuable thing in our life.

An Important word?

Like most of Paul’s writings, there is a lot to focus on in this passage.  Some like to focus in on Paul’s qualifications and talk about how important he was.  Others like to talk about the athletic language used in verses 12-14.

Me?  I get distracted by one of my favorite words in Greek.

Skubala.

Translated in most modern translations as rubbish (who uses that today?  Rubbish?) or garbage.  The old King James was more accurate with dung.  While it has the same amount of letters, it was in common Greek, you might say a much coarser or foul synonym.

For some reason I always got a chuckle out of Paul using that word to describe his genetic lineage, his academic and professional accomplishments, and that the word is in scripture, and that translators struggle with how to put it…nicely.

Rubbish?  really?

But that is part of the problem we face, in this passage which talks about not just the most valuable, but the infinitely valuable, we mess around with resumes, sports terms and other bull… rubbish.

I wish I understood why we can get so easily distracted, why we find it so easy to focus in on other things in a passage, rather than what the passage itself says is most important.

Important enough to leave all else in the dust.

For they have no value, and knowing Jesus who was chosen and anointed to save us, to realize He is our Lord, knowing Him is everything.

Nothing is worth chase after, like chasing after we’ve been caught

Paul explains why a few verses down,

I become righteous through faith in Christ. For God’s way of making us right with himself depends on faith. 10 I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead. I want to suffer with him, sharing in his death, 11 so that one way or another I will experience the resurrection from the dead!

This is why knowing Jesus is infinitely valuable.  Not just knowing about Him, knowing Him.  To experience life, the life that comes from dying with Him, and being raised, for we are united to Him.

To be that close, to know Christ, to depend on Him, sure that while we may fail, He will never fail us.

In one of my readings this week, a pastor wrote the words he us with a burnt out pastor,

Delight,” I told him, “in the mystery of God revealed in Christ, who, by the Spirit, is united to our humanity and opens the way to our union with God. Delight in the incarnation of God in Jesus, in his sacrifice for our sins, his victory over the powers of evil, and the good news that everything that needs to be done to unite us with God and establish our spiritual relationship with God is done through grace by faith in our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Affirm that Jesus, in union with God, dwells in you and you in him, and see the world through God’s divine embrace. Then live in your freedom to participate in God in the life of the world!”[1]

That pastor, like so many of us, was looking to his own works to make him holy, looking to his own actions to prove how spiritual he was.  And like the apostle Paul, he couldn’t do it.  No way, no how.

Graduating seminary and getting ordained are great tools to prepare you to minister, but they don’t make you holy.  Neither does just coming here, and doing your duty.  All that stuff, if we don’t hear Jesus, if we don’t get to know Him, if we don’t hear His voice, if we don’t experience His love as He brings us to life,  all that other stuff is a bunch of….. rubbish.

But when we come here, when we spend time hearing of His love, of His promised work in our lives, from forgiving us our sins to comforting us as we struggle, as He holds us in His embrace…

That is infinitely valuable.

So come, celebrate the Lord’s love for you.

Come, taste and know the love of the Lord…

For He is with you and wants you to know Him, and then know His peace.  AMEN.

 

 

[1] Webber, Robert E. The Divine Embrace: Recovering the Passionate Spiritual Life. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2006. Print. Ancient-Future Series.

Conversion and “Repentance” Evangelical Catholic VI? or VII?

Devotional/Discussion Thought of the Day:

18  When they heard this, they stopped their criticism and praised God, saying, “Then God has given to the Gentiles also the opportunity to repent and live!” Acts 11:18 (TEV) 

1  So then, my friends, because of God’s great mercy to us I appeal to you: Offer yourselves as a living sacrifice to God, dedicated to his service and pleasing to him. This is the true worship that you should offer. 2  Do not conform yourselves to the standards of this world, but let God transform you inwardly by a complete change of your mind. Then you will be able to know the will of God—what is good and is pleasing to him and is perfect. Romans 12:1-2 (TEV) 

8  But now you must get rid of all these things: anger, passion, and hateful feelings. No insults or obscene talk must ever come from your lips. 9  Do not lie to one another, for you have put off the old self with its habits 10  and have put on the new self. This is the new being which God, its Creator, is constantly renewing in his own image, in order to bring you to a full knowledge of himself.   Colossians 3:8-10 (TEV) 

Conversion— metanoia, in the New Testament Greek— is a lifelong matter for evangelical Catholics. Whether one is baptized as an infant or an adult, and no matter how old one is upon first meeting the Lord Jesus in a personal way, the Christian life as proposed by Evangelical Catholicism is one of constant conversion. That process continues until the moment of death, which the Christian should approach as the moment in which the gift of life is offered to the Creator: with gratitude for that gift having been redeemed by the Son, and with confidence that death is, in the power of the Spirit, the moment of transition and purification into a fuller encounter with the Holy Trinity. Living toward death in that way requires a lifetime of preparation, a lifetime of deepening one’s friendship with the Lord Jesus, the conqueror of death. (1)

These are words we are used to dealing with in the church, conversion and repentance.

Yet to adapt a line from the classic movie of movies, the Princess Bride, I think we don’t know what these words mean!

Weigel nails it – when he ties the word metanoia  which is often translated “repentance” to the word conversion.  For indeed repentance and conversion should communicate the same thing – and they often don’t.

I’ve often heard people talk about repentance as our turning our direction, doing a spiritual 180 from heading towards death, to changing to heading towards heaven.  Or some will argue that it means to be contrite and sorrowful for sin.   While contrition is part of it, there is more involved.  For the Greek word breaks apart into “change” and “mind” – calling us to do what Paul will challenge the Philippians to do – to  Let this mind be in you which was in Christ Jesus,  ( Philippians 2:5 (BBE)   Conversion is, having the mind of Christ, one that is not set on things of this world, but rather, things which are heavenly (1  You have been raised to life with Christ, so set your hearts on the things that are in heaven, where Christ sits on his throne at the right side of God. 2  Keep your minds fixed on things there, not on things here on earth.  Colossians 3:1-2 (TEV)

Like so much else of scripture, this is easier to say, than it is to do, hence the need for daily repentance, daily conversion.  It is why Luther would remind us to start and end each day thinking of our baptism, about what God did there.  For we all to soon forget, and live far too often trying to avoid or deal with the consequences of guilt and shame.  But our struggle isn’t that within ourselves, for we can’t fix our brokenness.  We can’t erase our sin.  It is finding the humility to look to God, to receive the gift of conversion, of cleansing, of receiving the blessing of renewal, as God provides for us in word and sacrament, as He calls us from the death of sin, to live – and live as Weigel puts it – towards the return of Christ – either when He returns at the end in all of His glory, or when He calls us home.

For there we find another promise fulfilled, 6  And so I am sure that God, who began this good work in you, will carry it on until it is finished on the Day of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 1:6 (TEV)

You see, that is the concept of conversion  – it is not us striving with all our might to change ourselves, and more than a baby can change it’s dirty diaper.  It is instead – taking a breath – remembering who our Lord and Savior is, turning to Him and finding revealed to us that He has done this thing, He has changed us, and is changing us.

May we become more and more aware of the mercy shown to us, as the Holy Spirit molds us, renews us, and restores us to the image in which we are created.

Godspeed my friends!

(1)  Weigel, George (2013-02-05). Evangelical Catholicism (pp. 67-68). Basic Books. Kindle Edition.

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