“13 No, dear brothers and sisters, I am still not all I should be, but I am focusing all my energies on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, 14 I strain to reach the end of the race and receive the prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us up to heaven.” Philippians 3:13-14
The Apostle Paul was a devout Pharisee who greatly valued his ancestors in the faith. He valued the past experiences of the faith. Paul was well aware of the incredible movement of God in human history for God’s favored people. So when Paul writes the words, “Forgetting the past,” he is not suggesting that you forget what God has done. Paul is actually teaching them a valuable lesson of faith. A lesson that would serve us well as we begin looking forward to what God will be doing in and through the people of St. Andrew’s United Methodist Church.
The Jewish philosopher, Rabbi, and theologian Abraham Joshua Heschel talks of a Jewish/Hebrew tradition teaching their students to move into the future “facing backwards.” The idea is that we move into the future as we are informed by our past. The Apostle Paul did not lose sight of this way of thinking. Paul is informed by the past experiences of God’s interaction with humanity and with him. However, Paul tells the people of the Philippian church to not dwell on the past. You can be informed and inspired by the past without dwelling on it. Paul tells them that he is not dwelling on the past, even though it has informed him. Rather, he is “looking forward to what lies ahead.” Paul is more interested in where God is leading him than where God has taken him. In a sense, Paul has already seen that and is anticipating what God has in store next. In this passage Paul is specifically talking about the reward of heaven. Paul is also urging them to enjoy every step along the way as they look forward to what is ahead.
Since coming to St. Andrew’s almost six years ago I have come to understand a lot about the history of this great church. I have learned of strong and faithful people who have strained to be faithful to God through the ministry and mission of this church. I am excited to hear the stories and be informed by how God has moved in and through this church over the years. I am even more excited about what is yet to come. I am energized about what God has in store for all of us as we continue looking forward to what lies ahead. I believe that God has some truly amazing things in store for us. I encourage you to be praying for your church, the leadership, and the congregation as we move into what lies ahead.
This Sunday we look again at what it means to be Godly. We will discuss what Paul tells Titus about living a godly life by giving of yourself. Looking forward to all God will do in and through you. I believe God is doing great things at St. Andrew’s and I can’t wait to see you in church.