Thursday, November 30, 2017

Feast of St. Andrew, Apostle

Today is the Feast of St. Andrew, Apostle.  St. Andrew was the brother of Simon Peter and was from the Galilean village of Bethsaida.  Andrew was a disciple of John the Baptist.  After John called Jesus “the Lamb of God,” Andrew became a follower of Jesus and also brought his brother to Jesus (John 1:35-42).  Andrew and Peter were then called by Jesus to be disciples while they were engaged in their work of being fishermen (Matthew 4:18-20).  Andrew became one of the twelve apostles chosen by Christ (Matthew 10:1-4).  According to Church tradition, Andrew was martyred when he was crucified on a cross in the form of an X.  St. Andrew’s Day determines the beginning of the Western Church Year, since the First Sunday in Advent is always the Sunday nearest to the Feast of St Andrew.

Scripture reading:
The next day again John was standing with two of his disciples, and he looked at Jesus as he walked by and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God!” The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. Jesus turned and saw them following and said to them, “What are you seeking?” And they said to him, “Rabbi” (which means Teacher), “where are you staying?”  He said to them, “Come and you will see.” So they came and saw where he was staying, and they stayed with him that day, for it was about the tenth hour. One of the two who heard John speak and followed Jesus was Andrew, Simon Peter's brother. He first found his own brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which means Christ). He brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “So you are Simon the son of John? You shall be called Cephas” (which means Peter) (John 1:35-42).

Collect of the Day:
Almighty God, by Your grace the apostle Andrew obeyed the call of Your Son to be a disciple.  Grant us also to follow the same Lord Jesus Christ in heart and life, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Commemoration of Noah

Today we remember and give thanks for Noah.  Noah, the son of Lamech (Gen 5:30), was instructed by God to build an ark, in which his family would find security from the destructive waters of a devastating flood that God warned would come. Noah built the ark, and the rains descended. The entire earth was flooded destroying “every living thing that was on the face of the ground, both man and beast” (7:23). After the flood waters subsided, the ark came to rest on the mountains of Ararat. When Noah determined it was safe, and God confirmed it, he and his family and all the animals disembarked. Then Noah built an altar and offered a sacrifice of thanksgiving to God for having saved his family from destruction. A rainbow in the sky was declared by God to be a sign of His promise that never again would a similar flood destroy the entire earth (8;20). Noah is remembered and honored for his obedience, believing that God would do what He said He would.

Collect of the Day:
Almighty and eternal God, according to Your strict judgment You condemned the unbelieving world through the flood, yet according to Your great mercy You preserved believing Noah and his family, eight souls in all.  Grant that we may be kept safe and secure in the holy ark of the Christian Church, so that with all believers in Your promise, we would be declared worthy of eternal life; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Last Sunday of the Church Year - 1 Thess 5:1-11

                                                                                                Last Sunday
                                                                                                1 Thess 5:1-11

            Things hadn’t gone as Paul had wanted at Thessalonica. We learn in the book of Acts that when he had just begun to preach Christ and found the congregation in that northern Greek city, he was driven out by Jews who were hostile to the Gospel.  The new Christians took Paul to Athens in southern Greece.
            Paul was deeply concerned about the Christians in Thessalonica. Earlier in the letter we learn that while Paul was in Athens, he sent Timothy to find out about how things were going.  He says, “For when we were with you, we kept telling you beforehand that we were to suffer affliction, just as it has come to pass, and just as you know.  For this reason, when I could bear it no longer, I sent to learn about your faith, for fear that somehow the tempter had tempted you and our labor would be in vain.”
            Timothy had now returned, and he had brought good news.  Paul wrote, “But now that Timothy has come to us from you, and has brought us the good news of your faith and love and reported that you always remember us kindly and long to see us, as we long to see you--for this reason, brothers, in all our distress and affliction we have been comforted about you through your faith. For now we live, if you are standing fast in the Lord.”
            In this letter, Paul has just dealt with one concern that had been reported by Timothy.  The return of Jesus Christ on the Last Day was a key part of the Gospel Paul had proclaimed to them.  However, some time had now passed.  Apparently Christians had died, and this raised concerns for the Thessalonians.  Would these brothers and sisters in Christ miss out on the salvation Jesus was going to bring if they weren’t alive when he returned?
              Paul assured the, “But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep.”  The resurrection of the body was an idea that was completely foreign to the Greco-Roman world – it was found only among the Jews. The Thessalonians had apparently not really understood what Jesus would do. And so Paul told them, “For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first.”
            The Thessalonians may have needed more instruction about what would happen when Jesus returned.  But they didn’t need any reminding that this was the goal. They were looking for Jesus’ return. They knew that it would be sudden and unexpected.  The apostle says in our text this morning, “Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers, you have no need to have anything written to you. For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.”
            There would be no warning – no signal that you had better get ready.  Instead, people would be going along like everything was great, even as they lived in sin and rejected God’s will.  Paul says, “While people are saying, ‘There is peace and security,’ then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape.”
            The Thessalonians knew this.  They knew the truth.  Paul says, “But you are not in darkness, brothers, for that day to surprise you like a thief. For you are all children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness.” 
            The challenge for us is twofold.  First, the Thessalonians knew that Jesus Christ would return.  They were expecting it. Do you?  Is this a thought that ever crosses your mind during the week: “Jesus could return today”?  If it doesn’t, then you need to listen up this morning. Because the apostle Paul doesn’t just think that it is something that is a basic truth of Christianity.  He also thinks that it should guide the way we live.
            The second challenge is the way the world thinks – and the influence it has upon us.  “Things aren’t black and white.”  That’s a summary of the way our culture now approaches life.  This of course means that there is no right and wrong.  There is no truth and error. There is just what you think is true and what I think is true.  And you had better not tell me that your right and wrong is right.  Are you being sucked in by this?  Is it affecting the way you think about topics like sex and marriage?
            Yet listen to what Paul says today: “But you are not in darkness, brothers, for that day to surprise you like a thief. For you are all children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness.”  Light and darkness; day and night – that is how Paul describes the world.  Either Jesus Christ is your Lord, or Satan is your Lord.  You are either thinking in the way of God’s truth, or you are in the dark.  It is so easy today for us to be lured into that darkness.  Our senses are assaulted all the time by images, sounds and music emerging from our smart phones, tablets, computers and wide screen televisions that tell us the world’s lies.
            But Paul reminds us today about the way things really are. There is God’s truth and there are the lies of the world.  There is light and there is darkness. And he reminds us about what God has made us to be as he says, “For you are all children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness.”  Through baptism the Holy Spirit has caused you to be born again. The Spirit of the risen Lord is at work within you.  You are children of light; children of the day.
            And this determines how we are to live. Pauls says in our text, “So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, are drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation.”
            Paul tells us not to join a sleep walking world, drunk on its own delusions.  I mean, this is a world that can’t tell the difference between a man and a woman any more.  Are you really going to let it guide the way you think? 
            Instead, Paul tells us that we must be awake.  The word Paul uses here is one that is regularly applied to expectation of Christ’s return.  We need to be sober - a word that describes being self-controlled.  The apostle is calling us to live lives the are shaped by the expectation of Jesus’ return – lives that are therefore lived with goal of walking in the truth.
            To do this, Paul says that we need to live as those who have “put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation.”  Drawing on language from the prophet Isaiah, the apostle describes the Christian life using the metaphor of battle armor.  To protect us from the world we need to live in faith and love.  Faith in Jesus Christ is the only way we can remain in the light.  It is only his death and resurrection that that gives the status of being children of the day; children of light.  It is only his love for us that enables us to love.  In the midst of a selfish world, Jesus’ Spirit leads us to love and serve others.
            Paul describes the helmet as the “hope of salvation.”  Pauls speaks of “hope” because he refers to the final and complete salvation – the salvation that will be ours when Jesus Christ returns on the Last Day; when as we heard least week in Philippians, he will transform our bodies to be like his glorious body.  Hope is one of the most powerful forces you will ever encounter.  When people have hope they are able to persevere and keep going.
            We have such a hope – a living hope – because it is grounded in the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  In fact, Paul says that this hope for the future was founded before the world began.  The apostle says at the end of our text: “For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him.”  By grace, God elected you to obtain this salvation. What had been planned from eternity, he carried out when the incarnate Son of God died for you on the cross.
            He died to give you salvation. His resurrection is the guarantee that this salvation gives life.  Paul says that whether we are awake or asleep we will live with Jesus.  Death cannot change that fact because Jesus Christ defeated death on Easter.  We will live with him because he is the risen and ascended Lord who will return on the Last Day. And so we have hope – the hope of salvation – that protects us in the midst of life’s challenges.
            Paul concludes our text this morning by saying, “Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.”  Certainly the encouragement he has in mind are the very things he has just been saying.  And so Paul has given us something to do.  Not only are his words to guide and encourage you, they are also something that we are to share with each other.
            This means that we speak to one another about the hope of salvation that we have in Jesus who gave himself for us on the cross and rose from the dead.  We remind one another that through baptism we are children of light; children of the day.  We know how things really are, and we know that Jesus Christ will return in a sudden and unexpected way. And so we are to live as those who keep watch – those who are ready as we live in sober and self-controlled ways.
            Most of all as we are looking for the return of Jesus Christ we need to wear the breastplate of faith and love, and the helmet of the hope of salvation.  Living by faith in Jesus Christ we have the certainty of God’s forgiveness and love for us.  Because we have received this love, we now live as those who love others in word and deed.  And because we know the risen and ascended Lord, he have the sustaining hope of the salvation Jesus will give us when he returns.       




Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Sermon for Thankgiving Eve - Deut 8:1-10

                                                                                                Thanksgiving Eve
                                                                                                Deut 8:1-10

            Why do we have Thanksgiving?  A shallow answer is that we have the holiday of Thanksgiving so that we can get together with family, eat of bunch of good food, watch football and do some shopping.  If we were to go a little deeper, I think most people recognize that it is a time to “count their blessings.”  There is a sense that Thanksgiving is associated with a general appreciation for the good things that we have.  People change the frame on their Facebook profile picture to say, “Thankful.”
            No doubt, you are going to do all the things I just mentioned.  You will get together with family, eat a bunch of good food, watch football and do some shopping.  However, before you do those things, you have chosen first to come to the Divine Service tonight.  You decided to come to church.  This indicates that at some level, you recognize that what I have just described isn’t good enough. 
            If thanksgiving is to be biblical thanksgiving, then it can’t be merely a recognition of how good you have it.  It can’t be a vague sense of thankfulness that the cosmic forces of chance and fate have treated you pretty well.
            Instead, our text tonight from Deuteronomy teaches us that real thanksgiving must be focused on God.  And when we use the term “God” we have a very particular referent in mind.  We are referring to the God who has revealed himself and has acted in history.  We are talking about the God who has acted to save you.
            Our text from Deuteronomy gives us one of the sermons that Moses preached to the people of Israel when they were about to cross over the Jordan into the promised land.  This was the second time that Israel was in the position to do this. The first time, forty years ago, had not gone so well. 
            Spies sent across the Jordan River had brought back a wonderful report – the land was great – it flowed with milk and honey.  However, there was also very bad news.  The people who already lived there were no pushover.  They were strong and presented a serious challenge.
            Instead of trusting in Yahweh, the people of Israel refused to enter the land that God had promised to give to them. They said their children would just end up slaves when they were defeated.  Yahweh punished their disobedience.  He said that instead, only their children would enter the land.  Israel was forced then to wander and live in the wilderness for forty years.  God fed them with manna until now it was once again time to enter the land.  Moses himself would not be allowed to do so.  In Deuteronomy we hear Moses’ final words to Israel as he recounts what had happened in the past for those who had often been too young to remember it.  He exhorted Israel to be faithful to Yahweh and to trust him.
            The first part of Deuteronomy chapter 8 is one of the texts for Thanksgiving.  On close inspection, this may seem surprising.  After all, most of what Moses describes in our text are not things for which we usually give thanks.
            It begins well enough.  We hear: “The whole commandment that I command you today you shall be careful to do, that you may live and multiply, and go in and possess the land that the LORD swore to give to your fathers.”  The starting point was Gospel.  The goal was the land that Yahweh promised to give to their fathers – to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
            That land was God’s gift.  As Israel had already recognized forty years earlier, they had no chance to go in and take it by their own powers.  Instead, it was God who had promised to give it to Abraham’s descendants.  All that there was for Israel to do was to walk in faith as the people God had taken to be his own.  This response of faith had been defined by the Torah that Yahweh had given to Israel at Mt. Sinai and was now being repeated for them.
            But then, Moses went on to say, “And you shall remember the whole way that the LORD your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments or not.”  We learn that God had humbled Israel.  He had tested them to know what was in their heart – whether they would walk in faith and keep his commandments.
            And then Moses added, “And he humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.”  Yet again Moses says that God acted to humble Israel.  He had allowed them to know hunger and had then fed them with manna just as he had said he would.  This experience had a purpose.  It was meant to teach them that life occurs by trusting in the word that comes from God.  Bread is necessary, but not bread alone.  Instead, what really matters is living by faith in what God says.
            Moses had spoken about humbling and testing.  And then he added, “Know then in your heart that, as a man disciplines his son, the LORD your God disciplines you.”  What is interesting about our text for Thanksgiving is that the majority of it talks about things for which we don’t give thanks.  I don’t know about you, but being humbled, tested and disciplined does not make me feel thankful.  Instead, it makes me want to complain.  The old Adam in me sees these all as negative things.  Amy’s brain tumor, surgery, and now lengthy process of recovery have all been occasions that generate these kinds of thoughts. I have no doubt that you experience things that do the same.
            Yet our text tonight reminds us that we live not by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.  God’s Word tells us how things really are.  He tells us that those things for which we do not give thanks are in fact still God at work for our good.  In fact … dare I say it … they too are things for which we need to give thanks.  Not that we give thanks for bad experiences. But we give thanks for the way God is using them.
            The only thing that can enable to maintain this perspective is the Gospel. Moses begins our text by referring to “the land that Yahweh swore to give to your fathers.”  The promise of the land was rooted in God’s call of Abraham when he said: “Go from your country and your kindred and your father's house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
            Yahweh promised that in the seed of Abraham – in his offspring – all families of the earth would be blessed.  His words were fulfilled in Jesus Christ who was, as Matthew tells us, “the son of David, the son of Abraham.”  The blessing that God has given to us in Jesus is forgiveness and salvation. 
            On one occasion Yahweh tested Abraham by commanding him to offer his only son Isaac whom he loved as a sacrifice.  Abraham trusted God and was willing to do this, and ultimately God provided a ram as the sacrifice in the place of Isaac.  However God the Father did not spare his only begotten Son whom he loved.  Instead he offered him as the sacrifice in your place on the cross.  Jesus Christ received God’s judgment against your sin.  But then, on the third day God raised him from the dead.  Through the incarnate Son of God, the Father has forgiven your sins and defeated death.
            God the Father has done this for you.  God’s action in Jesus Christ is the reason that we now are able to trust God when as a man disciplines his son, the LORD our God disciplines us.  He is the reason we are able to live not by bread alone but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.  Jesus Christ – the crucified and risen Lord - is the reason that we are able to walk by faith.
            This walk of faith is one of thanksgiving.  We give thanks to God for the forgiveness and salvation we have received in Jesus Christ.  Because of Jesus, we are able to be thankful for the way God uses times of humbling, testing and disciplining for our good.
            God’s action in Christ is the reason that we now are able to see all of our blessings as coming from God – blessing for which we give God thanks.  At the end of our text Moses says, “So you shall keep the commandments of the LORD your God by walking in his ways and by fearing him. For the LORD your God is bringing you into a good land.” The Israelites needed to walk in faith because God is the One who keeps his promises.  He was about to give them a good land – a land flowing with milk and honey.
            God is the One who blesses us with everything that we need to support this body and life.  In fact, he is the One who provides us with far more than just that.  Our response is one of thanksgiving.  But this is not the “Thankful” of the world.  This is thanks given to the God who has saved us - real thanksgiving.  As Moses says in the last verse of our text, “And you shall eat and be full, and you shall bless the LORD your God for the good land he has given you.”
            By faith we do give thanks.  We bless the Lord our God – we give thanks – because of the forgiveness and salvation he has given us through Jesus Christ.  We give thanks to God for the way he is at work for our good, even when he humbles, tests and disciplines us.  We give thanks to God for all of the blessings that he richly bestows upon us.    

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Sermon for the Twenty-third Sunday after Trinity - Phil 3:17-21

                                                                                                            Trinity 23
                                                                                                            Phil 3:17-21

            You have the status of being a citizen of the United States of America.  Now living here in the U.S. we probably take that for granted. In fact, we may only think of it in negative terms as we get our taxes prepared for April 15.
            However, if you go on vacation, or even if you go and live overseas, you are still a United States citizen.  And that status really does mean something.  When there is civil unrest or a natural disaster, the United States government makes arrangements to get U.S. citizens out of a country.
            And if things really go wrong, people who don’t even know you will risk their lives to save you – just because you are an American.  Jessica Buchanan experienced this.  Buchanan was involved in a humanitarian demining project in Somalia when she was kidnapped by pirates. Attempts to negotiate her release failed and because her health was worsening, U.S. Special Operations forces launched a raid to free her. On Jan. 25, 2012, twenty-four Navy Seals parachuted into Somalia and attacked the compound where Buchanan was being held.  They killed all the pirates and rescued her.  They did all of this, just because Buchanan had the status of being a citizen of the United States.
            In our text today, St. Paul reminds us about the status that we have.  Our citizenship is in heaven because of what Jesus Christ has done for us.  He has given us this status and it now shapes the way we live in the present, and gives us hope for the future.
            Paul begins our text this morning by saying, “Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us.”  What are the Philippians supposed to be imitating in Paul?  It is the attitude that he has just described.
            The apostle has warned the Philippians about those who are pushing the Torah and circumcision upon them.  It was an ongoing struggle in the first century Church as some Jewish Christians said that in order for Gentiles to be part of God’s people they had to do something – they had to observe some part of the Law given to Moses on Mt. Sinai.
            Paul has just said that if being Jewish was the big thing, then he could outdo all of the opponents.  He wrote, “If anyone else thinks he has reason for 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; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless.”
            It was an impressive resume.  But then Paul went on to say that none of it meant anything.  He said, “But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count 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 that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith.”
            Compared to the gift of righteousness which Paul had received in the death of Jesus Christ on the cross, it all meant nothing.  In fact, Paul calls it garbage and he says that nothing else matters when compared to the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus his Lord.  Through faith in Christ he had received God’s righteousness – his saving action to put all things right.
            Paul’s goal was to gain Christ and be found in the righteousness that God provided through him.  But that wasn’t all.  He went on to add that his goal was that, “I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.”
            Jesus Christ had passed through suffering and death on the way to resurrection.  Paul says it is the same for those who have faith in Jesus.  As Christians, sharing in Jesus’ sufferings and being conformed to his death is part of our life. But this is done in the assurance that Jesus Christ has risen from the dead, and that the power of his resurrection is already at work in us through the Holy Spirit.
            That is how it is supposed to be.  That is the pattern that Paul wanted the Philippians to imitate in him and other mature Christians among them.  But in our text the apostle also acknowledges that not all do this.  He says, “For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things.”
            We need to pay attention to Paul’s words here because he is talking about people who identified themselves as being Christians.  None of them said, “Oh yes, I am an enemy of the cross!”  However their way of looking at life was all messed up.  Paul says that their god was their belly and they gloried in their shame with minds set on earthly things. 
            Paul doesn’t give us any specifics, but it shouldn’t be too hard to figure out what this looks like in our own time.  Think about all the things where the world places the emphasis: money, possessions, vacations, sports, success, fame, prestige and sex.  How often do these things shape your thought and goals?  How often do they determine your behavior and your judgment about what is important, good and desirable instead of Jesus Christ and his Word?
            The apostle knew that these challenges are out there. That’s why he writes these words.  He has said, “Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us.”  And then he goes on to remind us about what we are – the status we have.  Paul says at the end of our text, “But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.”
            The language about “citizenship” would have been very meaningful to the Philippians.  Though located in Greece, Philippi was a Roman colony. There were several different statuses that a city outside of Italy in the Roman Empire could have. The best was to be a Roman colony.  The residents of Philippi were Roman citizens.  They had the all the rights that went along with that status.  Now to be clear, they didn’t live in Rome. That wasn’t home. Their home was Philippi.  However, their status was one of being Roman citizens. This defined who they were.
            Your status has been defined by your baptism into the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Because of this, your citizenship is in heaven.  You have the status being God’s people – his saints.  This is something that has been won by Jesus Christ who is now the ascended and exalted Lord. 
            Already now, Jesus has won. He has defeated sin.  He has defeated death.  His reign as the victorious king has already started. He is the One who gives you the status of having citizenship in heaven.
            Paul says that because of this we are not to live as those whose god is their belly and who glory in their shame with minds set on earthly things.  After all, our citizenship is in heaven. That’s who we are.  That’s what God has made us to be. 
            Paul calls us to join in being imitators of him.  Immediately before our text he has said, “Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.
Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”
            We have the status now of being saints.  In the resurrection of Jesus we have the guarantee that death has been defeated.  But Paul reminds us that we must live as those who have their eye on the prize. We are to live as those who want to be found in Christ, not having a righteousness of our own, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith. We are to live as those who seek to know him and the power of his resurrection as we share in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, so that by any means possible we may attain the resurrection from the dead.
            This goal of sharing fully in Jesus’ resurrection is the thing that gives us hope and encouragement.  Paul says at the end of our text that while our citizenship is in heaven, “from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.”
            Uncertainty about the future makes us nervous and saps our strength.  Paul reminds us that we know what the future holds.  We may not know the timing, but we know what will happen.  We are awaiting our Savior from heaven, the Lord Jesus Christ.  He will return and change our bodies to be like his glorious body.
            God made our bodies to be good as we lived in his very good creation.  It is only sin that made them mortal – able to die.  Jesus Christ is the second Adam who has reversed what the first Adam did. His resurrection is the beginning of our resurrection.  He is the first fruits.
            People in Philippi had Roman citizenship.  But their home was Philippi.  In the same way, your citizenship is in heaven, but this world is your home. That’s why Paul says that we eagerly await from heaven a Savior who will transform our bodies.  The Lord Jesus will return and transform your body to be like his glorious body. 
            This isn’t some kind of escape from our physical, bodily existence.  Instead, we learn that Jesus Christ is the model and pattern for our resurrection.  At Jesus’ resurrection he invited his disciples to “touch me and see, for a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.”  His was a physical and bodily resurrection. But it is a body that is imperishable and can never die again.  That is the transformation that Jesus will work upon you when he returns on the Last Day.
            In our text, Paul reminds us about the status that we have now – we are the people of God and our citizenship is in heaven with our Lord.  He also points us to the future – to the day when Jesus Christ will return in glory and transform our bodies to be like his so that we can live forever in his renewed creation.  The Holy Spirit will use this present and future to aid each one of us in being imitators of the apostle Paul as we walk in faith.