" ......I really was who I had believed I was!"

 

RAMBLING RECTOR

Church buildings can open for public worship now, but I will continue to send a short reflection, for those of you who must continue to ‘shield’. It will be based on the topic of the Sunday Sermon, but not a transcript of it.

Let me know if you want a full transcript and I’ll get one to you.

 

SUNDAY 4 October 2020

Philippians 3.4b-14

If someone else thinks they have reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless.

But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in[a] Christ – the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. 10 I want to know Christ – yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.

12 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13 Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: forgetting what is behind and straining towards what is ahead, 14 I press on towards the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenwards in Christ Jesus.

This is the Word of the Lord.  Thanks be to God.

 

Matthew 21.33-46

Hear the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ according to MATTHEW

Glory to you, O Lord.

33 ‘Listen to another parable: there was a landowner who planted a vineyard. He put a wall round it, dug a winepress in it and built a watchtower. Then he rented the vineyard to some farmers and moved to another place. 34 When the harvest time approached, he sent his servants to the tenants to collect his fruit.

35 ‘The tenants seized his servants; they beat one, killed another, and stoned a third. 36 Then he sent other servants to them, more than the first time, and the tenants treated them in the same way. 37 Last of all, he sent his son to them. “They will respect my son,” he said.

38 ‘But when the tenants saw the son, they said to each other, “This is the heir. Come, let’s kill him and take his inheritance.” 39 So they took him and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him.

40 ‘Therefore, when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?’

41 ‘He will bring those wretches to a wretched end,’ they replied, ‘and he will rent the vineyard to other tenants, who will give him his share of the crop at harvest time.’

42 Jesus said to them, ‘Have you never read in the Scriptures:

‘“The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone;
the Lord has done this, and it is marvellous in our eyes”[a]?

43 ‘Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit. 44 Anyone who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; anyone on whom it falls will be crushed.’[b]

45 When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard Jesus’ parables, they knew he was talking about them. 46 They looked for a way to arrest him, but they were afraid of the crowd because the people held that he was a prophet.

This is the Gospel of the Lord.  Praise to you, O Christ.

 

 

A couple of Christmases ago, I was given an “Ancestry pack” as a gift.  I expect you’ve heard of these, or you may even have tried one for yourself!

 

You take a sample of your DNA by swabbing the inside of your mouth, then you send it off, and they analyse it and tell you what geographical area your forebears would have come from.  Some people have had surprising results – but mine was what I expected from knowing my family history. They identified North Cornwall and South Wales as my family’s places of origin. 

 

And you know, it was actually quite an odd feeling, which I can only describe as a sense of ‘rootedness’ and belonging.  A sense that what had been passed down to me by stories and accounts of our family history, were also founded on actual scientific proof. I really was who I had believed I was!

 

I connected with that feeling when I considered the words of the Apostle Paul, in our epistle reading today.

 

He has been absolutely sure of his heritage and of his roots in the Jewish faith. He’s exceedingly proud of it, and he won’t be beaten by anyone on ‘Jewishness’. He has every right to count himself among the people of the nation of Israel, belonging to the tribe of Benjamin, one of the twelve tribes of Israel and one of the two tribes (with Judah) that became the Jewish people. He was, he emphasises, circumcised according to Jewish tradition eight days after his birth, that is, at the appointed time.  Paul’s name, you will remember was originally Saul, so he was named after a Jewish king. He was also a Pharisee, the great teachers of Israel, zealous for the Torah of Israel. Paul followed the law scrupulously, offering sacrifices at the proper times and he lived by all the purity laws, as well as imposing those laws on others.

 

Yet now, he says, discovering Christ has meant so much to him, that the previous markers of his identity that he had considered so vitally important fade into insignificance.

 

You will remember that last week, we spoke about Jesus ‘self-emptying’ (kenosis) his laying aside of his heavenly authority and majesty to walk with us in our fragile humanity. Paul is acting in a similar way, not standing on his status as a good, law-abiding Jew, but confident only in Christ.

 

He has come to realise how much he owes to Christ, and how much he desires that his life moves on with Christ.

 

What of us?

 

Whatever our family heritage, this passage offers us a deeper realisation of how much our lives are rooted in God, how much we ‘belong’ with him, and how he continually invites us to allow that love relationship to become deeper and stronger as we journey with him.


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