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Lent Reflection: 3/25/2013

3/25/2013 Mary Ottley (C’15)
Jeremiah 12:1-16
Philippians 3:1-14
John 12:9-19

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.


Beware of the dogs, beware of the evil workers, beware of those who mutilate the flesh! 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— 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: 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; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless.


Yet whatever gains I had, these I have come to regard as loss because of Christ. 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 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. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death, if somehow I may attain the resurrection from the dead.


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. 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, I press on towards the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus. –Philippians 3:1-14

I had finished Treetops, the challenge course, almost in its entirety. The only part left to conquer was the zip line. All the campers, myself included, were sending shouts of jubilee heavenward knowing this part of the course was next. Every year I sailed down the zip line in perfect posture, feet out without holding onto the rope, as was instructed. I scoffed at the campers who chose to ride down upside down, thinking to myself, “How could any method of riding be more fun or rewarding than what I am doing right now?” I had full confidence in my way of zip lining, though I had always heard the way to do gown the zip line was upside down.

It was our last year as campers and my Treetops partner, Taylor, was determined to get me to ride the inverted way. We sat down on the ledge and prepared for the counselors to pull the release. Taylor pestered me until the very last minute when the counselors released the cord and yelled, “Flip!” Shockingly, I obeyed her command. We were sailing down the zip line upside down and by the time we were at the bottom I didn’t want to stop. The inverted method was indeed the way to ride.    

The reading for today in Philippians 3, entitled “No Confidence in the Flesh,” appears to me a bit like the upside down ride on the zip line. Initially unsettling it seems preposterous, but after understanding Paul’s perspective I am moved to believe there is no other way to ride the zip line. Paul beckons us to live a life that places no confidence in ourselves and all confidence in “the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ.” A difficult charge to grasp, I began to draw a comparison to my zip lining experience in an attempt to understand the gravity of Paul’s statements. I had full confidence in my way of riding the zip line, in my flesh, because I knew no other way. Gaining perspective, I realized that we are sinful creatures who often relish and take pride in our own capacity. What an upside down world we’d be living in if we were to treat as garbage “the very credentials these people are waving around as something special” (Phil. 3:7, The Message). Upside down, yes, but spectacular. Like riding down camp’s hill seeing the world from a whole new perspective.

During this Lenten season I want to challenge you to invert your world and start living upside down. Paul says, in verse 10, “I gave up all that inferior stuff so I could know Christ personally, experience his resurrection power” (The Message). However, Paul does admit, “not that I have already obtained all this” (Phil. 3: 12, NIV). Even he doesn’t have it all together, but Paul has realized the freedom that stems from abandoning confidence in the flesh, in the “instructed method” of zip lining.

What a great trade! I would rather live in an inverted world, one in which I am getting “to know Christ personally,” than live in a world where I’m forced to rely on my failing flesh. I pray that today we will all take time to repent of our self-reliance and ask for a renewed sense of confidence in Christ. Listen to God’s call as he whispers to you gleefully, “Live upside down today, beloved!” Go ahead and mimic Paul, cast off what was profit. Even ride the zip line upside down! We may find this is far more rewarding than a world right side up.