There was another first today. I preached in a suit, and a football jersey. Today is Green Shirt Day, a day in recognition of and for organ donation. I would like to say a bright green Riders jersey, as that is the only non-t-shirt, non-sweatshirt, green, garment I have looks good but I’m not willing to lie about it 🙂 but all in a good cause and organ donation is something I believe very strongly needs to be closer to the top of all our minds.
It doesn’t happen every week but one of the things I am committed to as a preaching person is admitting when I had something wrong before and how I “fixed” it.¹ This Sunday you get to hear how I have revised my earlier, errant, interpretation and/or understanding of a passage in Philippians . . . lucky you!
At one point, my take on Paul’s “pressing on” was one of anxiety. I read it as Paul pressing on because if he didn’t he was doomed. He needed to finish well because at that point there were no guarantees that he was in a full and authentic relationship with God; he could still be left out in the cold (or worse) at the end of his life. There isn’t too much that could be further from the truth. Paul’s “salvation,” to put it a bit crassly, was a guaranteed and secure at that moment as it ever would be. Paul’s, and our salvation, is based not on our own efforts or constancy but rather the changeless of God.
When I think of it that way, it changes everything. Paul presses on toward the goal not because he isn’t done. He keeps running for the same reason every runner does, he isn’t at the finish line yet. There are still lots of things to do but once you are “in the race” to push the metaphor just a bit more, your ultimate situation is fully and completely settled. No matter where or when you finish, you are still a finisher.
¹This is more than a personal peccadillo. I am deeply committed to the philosophy of the “whole person” in the pulpit, even the one who makes mistakes. My feeling when I was growing up was a preacher was neither allowed, nor capable of, making a mistake. I have no idea how I came to this but I did and it skewed my own preaching practice for a time when I first began. It was when I began to authentically wrestle with texts, which inevitably led to the realization a previous interpretation was limited, or simply wrong, that I began to think sharing some of this might help others. I don’t have a clear recollection of the first time I talked about what I used to believe, how it was wrong, how I discovered it was wrong, who helped me with the discovery, and what I believed now. Whenever it was, I came away with a strong sense of affirmation. Since then I have had more than one person express their appreciation for my willingness to admit I was wrong. I like to think it helps all of us be a bit kinder with others and ourselves and to hold what we believe at the moment just a bit more lightly.