By Michael Smith
A Reading from Philippians 3:1-16
1 Finally, my brothers and sisters, rejoice in the Lord.
To write the same things to you is not troublesome to me, and for you it is a safeguard.
2 Beware of the dogs, beware of the evil workers, beware of those who mutilate the flesh! 3 For it is we who are the circumcision, who worship in the Spirit of God and boast in Christ Jesus and have no confidence in the flesh — 4 even though I, too, have reason for confidence in the flesh.
If anyone else has reason to be confident in the flesh, I have more: 5 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; 6 as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless.
7 Yet whatever gains I had, these I have come to regard as loss because of Christ. 8 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 9 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. 10 I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death, 11 if somehow I may attain the resurrection from the dead.
12 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. 13 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, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus. 15 Let those of us then who are mature be of the same mind; and if you think differently about anything, this too God will reveal to you. 16 Only let us hold fast to what we have attained.
Paul writes to the Christians at Philippi: “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death.” Wait, what? It makes sense to want to know the power of resurrection, but who in their right mind would want to share sufferings and death? Paul seems to know something that we do not, or perhaps would rather ignore or deny: the paschal mystery of Christ points to the journey of all who are joined to him. You cannot have one without the other. Resurrection is linked to suffering and death, and vice versa. As the saying goes, there is no Easter Sunday without Good Friday.
In another place, Paul writes: “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life” (Rom. 6:3-4). Conversion to Christ and baptism mark our entrance into the pattern of suffering, death, and resurrection.
Fridays are traditional days to reflect on the passion and death of the Lord Jesus Christ. Some Christians abstain from meat as a reminder that Christ sacrificed his flesh; others walk and pray the Stations of the Cross. The 1979 Book of Common Prayer notes that Fridays are days of devotion to be “observed by special acts of discipline and self-denial” (BCP 17). What needs to die in you so that you might walk in newness of life?
Michael G. Smith served as bishop of North Dakota for fifteen years and is currently the Assistant Bishop of Dallas. He works with the Navajoland Iona Collaborative and is a Benedictine Oblate and an enrolled member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation.
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Daily Devotional Cycle of Prayer
Today we pray for:
Church of the Holy Family, Chapel Hill, N.C.
The Diocese of Etche (Church of Nigeria)