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.
Philippians 3: 1-14 (NRSV)
Lent can be a time to reconsider our lives, a time to set aside those things that distract us and focus on our relationship with God, a time to let the Holy Spirit move within us so we might hear God’s call on our lives this day. As we enter Holy Week and Lent comes to an end, what have you set aside in an effort to renew your connection with God and Christ’s church?
Paul writes to the Philippians in part to encourage them to assess their lives. He reminds them that whatever “gains” they have –wealth, honor, and status, perhaps – are nothing compared to the value of Jesus Christ. These earthly things might give us confidence in the flesh, Paul notes, but don’t help us know Christ. In fact, Paul might even argue that those things we value in our societies prevent us from knowing Christ, from identifying so closely with Jesus that we might understand our future is in Christ rather than our own achievements.
This year, instead of giving something up for Lent, I have made an intentional decision to say “yes,” and another intentional decision to say “no.” I’ve decided to focus on my relationship with God by saying yes to a new spiritual practice: a daily devotion. I’m using Seeking God’s Face, an iteration of the daily office that helps me pray the scriptures. Each day, the book provides an opening prayer, psalm, scripture, prayer guides, and various opportunities for quiet and meditation. While I won’t pretend I’ve done it every single day of Lent, I have done it most days – or, rather, nights – and find myself grateful for the moments stolen away in God’s presence.
This is why I’ve also intentionally said “no” this Lent. When I realized what a struggle it was to find the time to be with God and to take care of myself, I knew I couldn’t add anything else to my already-full plate. While I’ve tried my best to live into every commitment I’ve already made, this Lenten season, I haven’t added any more. While this doesn’t mean I suddenly have copious amounts of free time, it does mean I’ve given myself permission to prioritize my relationship with God – and my own self-care.
So, this year, I’ve used Lent to practice intentionality. But no practice is mastered in 40 days. God willing, these commitments I’ve made will last far beyond Easter Sunday. I still plan on practicing the daily office, and I should keep practicing saying “no” when my inclination is to say “yes” to every new opportunity that comes my way. Lent is the perfect time to practice setting aside those things that distract us from God. Now, as Paul says, we must “strain forward to what lies ahead,” pressing on “toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus.”
What have you set aside during Lent? What might you take with you as you press on towards what’s ahead, towards knowing Christ?
It is so easy to forget your all-encompassing call on our lives. We get caught up working, learning, volunteering, living. People need us, and we can’t let them down. But in the meantime, we’ve let you down. Help us focus on our relationship with you so that we might better know you. Be with us now and beyond Lent as we continually prioritize you in our lives, reminding us that earthly priorities are not necessarily priorities of your kingdom.
It is in Jesus’ name we pray.
Middle Level, M. Div./M.A.C.E.
Linda Kurtz is from Burke, VA, and is the communications specialist for NEXT Church. She currently serves as moderator for the 2016-2017 Richmond Student Government Assembly. Upon graduating in 2019, Linda is looking to serve in an ordained parish ministry context with a focus on young adults/college ministry.