Sermon text: Philippians 3: 4b-14
I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in death.
I drink deeply from this line by Paul as he expresses the cornerstone of our faith. We want to know Jesus. To know means not just to have information, not simply to think about and acknowledge. To know goes beyond even belief and confession. To know is to feel it in our bones, to share intimacy that demonstrates that you belong to each other, like remember what gets your partner to smile when they are in a crabby mood or what food to quickly prepare when they are hangry. Deep down, we want to know Jesus, and we want to be known by him.
Not only do we want to know Jesus, we want to know the power of his resurrection. We want to know new life that springs forth from loss. We want to know wholeness that binds up the wounded and brokenhearted. We want to know eternal life in the midst of grief. We want to know forgiveness and reconciliation when relationships are shattered and egos are bruised. Mercy. Love. Justice. Grace. We want to know all of the marks of God’s kingdom, all of the realities of resurrected living, all of the fruits that grow on the tree in the center of the New Jerusalem for the healing of nations.
The problem remains that far too often we share in his sufferings and become like him in death without witnessing the power and knowledge of Christ and his resurrection. It sometimes feels like time pauses between Good Friday and the Easter Vigil, for we constantly face evidence that contradicts the knowledge we carry of Christ’s mercy and justice.
We shared in the sufferings of tremendous loss as sickness ravaged our world, and then we suffered our differences in how to face our problems together. We suffered lost experiences, lost milestones, lost community, lost connections, lost lives, and lost time. Where is the power of his resurrection in a pandemic?
We share in the sufferings of violence. Senseless loss of life continues to plague our nation. Abroad we see bombed out buildings and burned out vehicles as war continues to rage in Ukraine. We endure nature’s violence as people die in snow squall pile-ups and other “Acts of God.” We cannot even watch an award show without violent words against people with physical disabilities being passed off as comedy and violent slaps in the face being passed off for love.
We share in the sufferings of depression, anxiety, eating disorders, addiction, and all the many ways our brains and emotions prey on our wholeness. Lord knows mental health concerns are on the rise these last two years.
We share in the sufferings of racism, prejudice, sexism, and phobias of people who differ from us. We blame, judge, and condemn without employing compassion. We allow shallow caricatures to inform our opinions rather than honest interaction. We suffer by not seeing the “other” in the best possible light.
We share in the suffering of sickness and pain. We hear diagnoses like cancer, arthritis, diabetes, dementia, COPD, heart disease, tinnitus, and macular degeneration. It’s like our bodies specialize in finding new and inventive ways of breaking down. Half of the United States suffers with a chronic condition. Where’s the power of the resurrection?
We suffer social conditions that are easily overlooked and ignored. Poverty, food insecurity, the prison industrial complex, unaffordable healthcare and prescription drug prices, corporate greed, homelessness. Our kingdom hardly reflects the one Jesus talked about.
I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection. Yes, even though there seems to be contrary evidence against God’s mercy and justice, even though God’s peace seems illusory, even though we all worry and judge and lose sleep over a laundry list of concerns, we still believe that the darkness of the Good Friday cross will yield to the light of the Resurrection Dawn. We believe that God has the last word, not fragments of life that cause us grief. The fragrance of life will overtake the stench of death.
And for that reason, because of the knowledge of God we share, we press on. Because of our knowledge of Christ and the power of his resurrection, we continue on, even if it is our last full measure of strength.
We press on, like a long distance runner in the last mile of the race.
We press on, like a student writing their final term paper in college.
We press on, like a worker in their last year before retirement.
We press on, like a family on the final leg of their road trip, when bladders are full and the bag of M&M’s is empty.
We press on, like a patient in the physical therapy completing their final treatment.
Press on like a weight lifter completing their last rep.
Press on like a quilter finishing their last patch.
Press on like a gardener pulling the last weed.
Press on like a dog chasing after his favorite ball for the 1000th time.
We press on toward the goal, for we trust in God’s promises, we trust in the work of Christ, and we trust that the ministry we do, the efforts we make, and the changes we effect in this world will not be in vain.
Press on people of God. Press on through the distractions. Press on through the hardships. Press on through the disappointments. Press on and trust that the power of the resurrection will endure forever. AMEN