But You Don’t Give In.
Daily Advent Reflection.
Friday, December 9, 2011
Sometimes you’re beaten to the call
Sometimes you’re taken to the wall
But you don’t give in.
These daily Slow Church Advent Reflections are based on the Daily Readings of the Revised Common Lectionary (Year B). We love for you to read and reflect along with us!
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Yesterday as lunch at our homeschool co-op wound down, the adults found themselves watching as three children toed a line of red tile which marked the beginning of their race. Two boys and one girl, bodies quivering with excitement for the task that was before them. Another boy stood to the side in objective anticipation as his voice yelled, “Three! Two! One. . . Go!!”
The three bound forward as the rest of the children joined in the noise to cheer their young friends on. That their track has never held national championship meets or cannot boast a tenured history but is instead the lowly Fellowship Hall at Englewood Christian Church did not bother them. The place is not grand, but it is their place. It is where they have been placed, and because it is where they were, it is where they ran. The girl, Ali, took the lead around the tables and the chairs while John and Alex followed closely at her heels. Lap one and two and three passed by and Ali continued to run, her single aim to move as well as she could with what she had been given. She crossed the line having lived up to the effort and ability that her tiny seven-year-old frame could attain. All that her post-race body could handle was an exhaustive crash to the floor and giggles of joy that only Ali can make.
In our lectionary text for today, Paul prompts his readers to follow his example and press on with singleness of mind in “forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead” (v. 13). Just prior to these words, Paul names what it is he is leaving behind. That is, his flesh-driven good works. The picture he paints of himself puts him in line with the most righteous in Israel. But he disqualifies his story. He finds no profit in it. Compared with knowing Christ Jesus, his accomplishments add up to rubbish, refuse, trash. He does not say that he counts his former positives as nothing; he counts them as negative, as detrimental. For Christ’s sake, he rearranges the way he understands himself and his world. The goal of gaining Christ means for Paul abandoning the logic of the world and holding fast to the wisdom of Christ. The Christ of incarnation, of suffering, of death, and of resurrection. With Paul here, as in Romans 12: 1-2, we must understand our world in light of this new version of reality. We must live into the truth that apart from the treasures of knowing Christ, everything adds up to negative.
In verses 12-16, Paul qualifies himself. He acknowledges that he has not reached perfection; he is limited, not fully mature. But this does not halt him. That he is not yet fully in Christ regarding every aspect of thought and life does not frighten Paul. This is the reality of being human. While it does not frighten him, it also does not make him complacent. He presses on in expectation that one day he will come to know his prize.
We must press on. Together in our particular places, no matter how lowly we see them, we must find our way through this world asking one another continually how the truth of Christ’s incarnation, death, resurrection and ascension play out in our lives. Paul says that God will point out our miscues along the way. But we must live up to whatever it is we already have been given. We cannot work with what we do not have. But in each of our places, God has provided for us a story and tangible ways for us to follow faithfully. For Christ’s sake, let us forget our old ways of understanding the world and seek to know the wisdom Christ has for us along the way.
Kyle Mobley is a recent graduate of Johnson University who now lives on the Near Eastside of Indianapolis as a part of the Englewood Christian Church Community.