In his letter to the church in Philippi, Paul says that - he has learned to be content, whatever his circumstances (Philippians 4:12). That’s a lesson that takes some learning. Often our contentment, our happiness, is determined by our circumstances, especially if those circumstances involve pain, difficult people, pressures and problems. We easily fall into the trap, of ‘when’ and ‘then’ thinking. ‘When’ such-and-such happens, ‘then’ we’ll be happy. In Philippians 1:12-30, Paul says that we can address some of the “killjoys” of life, if we - look at our circumstances from God’s point of view, don’t let others control our attitude, trust God to help us work things out, and stay focussed on our purpose. Paul sums it up this way - “Whatever happens, conduct yourself, in a manner worthy of the good news of Christ” (Philippians 1:27).
We can walk down many roads searching for happiness but find nothing is ever a good as it promises to be. Paul’s letter to the Philippian church is one of the most joyful parts of God’s word. When he’s writing about happiness Paul begins with relationships. In the first 11 verses Paul encourages us to – be grateful for the people in our lives pray with joy for them expect the best from them, and love them like Jesus does.
When Jesus was crucified, he had around 100 followers. Today, around 2.3 billion people claim to be followers of Jesus (that’s around 1 of every 3 people). How did that happen? How did Christianity spread so quickly and so widely?
It’s the resurrection! Not dead Jesus! Easter Sunday.
When God purposed, to come to earth (that’s Christmas), and die for the sins of all humankind (that’s Good Friday) and then raise Jesus back to life three days later (that’s Easter Sunday), that becomes the single most significant event in history. Nothing else comes close.
Jesus’s resurrection gives us good reason to be people who live with hope, because –
we’ve been completely forgiven
we’re no longer afraid of death
we now have God’s spirit empowering our lives
we know God will never stop loving us
we know the purpose for which we’re created, and
we have an eternal home waiting for us.
John 19:30 records Jesus’ last words – “it is finished”. Later, as the early Christians read John's Gospel and heard those words again, it dawned on them just how powerful these dying words of Jesus were. “Tetelestai” is the Greek translation of Jesus’ words – it was part of the common language of the time carrying the idea that something (a job, a temple sacrifice, a transaction, a work of art, a task) was completed; there was nothing further to do. When Jesus spoke those final words, he wasn't just saying - "this is the end of me", as if there was nothing else to do but to give in to his enemies and die. His last words weren't a final surrender to the powers of evil as if to say - "you've won. I'm done for". These words don't tell us that Jesus was dead now and that's all there is to it; he's finished and so is everything that he stood for and promised during his earthly life. All those who heard the word – “tetelestai” understood that Jesus was saying that his job of saving the world has been completed? He has finished that task and nothing can be added to what has been done. Jesus has paid the price in full; he has cancelled all debt. His sacrifice has been a perfect one, acceptable to the heavenly Father who looking down on his Son hanging lifelessly from the cross said - "This is my dear Son with whom I am well pleased". “Tetelestai - it is finished. Everything is complete!”
Matthew 21:6-9 is Matthew’s account of Jesus entering Jerusalem. Matthew says - The crowds in front of him, and behind him shouted: “Hosanna to the son of David! Blessed is he, who comes in the name of the Lord. Hosanna in the highest!” It’s hard to imagine the “ticker”, the intestinal fortitude, the tenacity, the “love-courage” of Jesus as he sets out for Jerusalem and all he knew would unfold for him there. Surely, neither his disciples nor this Palm Sunday crowd had any idea of what was to come. Now, there was no turning back for Jesus. And he was determined, to see it through to the end, and trust it all into the hands of his Father in heaven. In an age of anxiety and in this time of anxiety “love-courage” is the same for us. Trust in the love we know God has for us and the love we have for God. God’s love is the source of the security we have the drives out fear and anxiety.
Paul writing to the church in Corinth says - “by the good news you are saved.”
It seems strange to think of the “passion” of Jesus, the events that unfold in the last hours of his life here on earth (his trial, crucifixion, death and resurrection) as “good news”. But it’s the heart of Easter and of our Christian faith. It’s encapsulated in perhaps the most famous verse in the New Testament - “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life.” John 3:16 (King James Version).
These few words remind us that we can –
1) Acknowledge God’s great passion for us
For God so loved the world
2) Appreciate God’s gift
that he gave his only begotten son
3) Accept God’s proposal
that whosoever believes in him
4) Anticipate God’s promise
should not perish but have everlasting life
Mel Gibson’s movie ‘The Passion of the Christ’, was a controversy at the time. In every newspaper. On the cover of Newsweek and Time. Talked about in television shows.
Very few movies get, the amount of attention, as ‘The Passion of the Christ’ received at the time.
When Mel talks, about the passion of Christ, he’s using the old English word “passion”, which literally means “suffering.” Specifically, technically, the passion of Christ, refers to the last twelve hours of Jesus’s life.
That drama plays out in three acts. In the trial, in the death, and in the resurrection of Jesus. In those three events we learn about God’s purpose (I’m sending my Son for you), God’s passion (the vastness of God’s love for us) and God’s power (available for us as we live our lives today).
Paul, writing to the Philippian church says - “Christ was truly God. But … He gave up everything, and became a slave, when he became like one of us. He even died on a cross.
Then God gave Him the highest place, and honoured His name, above all others. So, that at the name of Jesus, everyone will bow down – those in heaven, on earth, and under the earth.”
2020 is well underway. And there are probably some things we thought were “urgent” for this year; other things not so much.
Mostly “heaven” isn’t in our Top 10 list of things that occupy our minds attention. Maybe that could be a helpful change for us, because there’s no greater truth, than the truth of heaven …
to give us perspective in life, especially in those times when we face problems ...
to help us make it through the tough times of life ...
to help us see the great kind of life that God wants us to live …
to reduce anxieties in everyday life and show us the significance of everyday life.
Paul, writing to the Philippian church put it this way - “I’ve got my eye on the goal. God is beckoning us onward to Jesus. I am off and running and I’m not turning back. Let’s keep focused on that goal, those of us who want everything that God has for us.” (Philippians 3:14)
Lent is often used as a defined season - 40 days - to reflect on our lives in relationship with God.
As followers of Jesus, and from within a Protestant tradition, we are encouraged to do more than that: we are encouraged to reflect on the disciplines (think ‘disciple-things’) that build and strengthen our relationships with God and others, and our service in the world.
The Gospel of John tells us the story of a woman, Mary, who poured out extravagant love for Jesus as she anointed him with expensive perfume. In Lent, might we have a focus that becomes a discipline for us beyond this season, in which our goal is to live more like Jesus, focusing on what God is seeking for the world: justice, mercy, love…?"