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lifting our eyes – sarah harris

In a New Testament Introductory course, we recently looked at Phil 1:3-11 – Paul’s prayer for the ekklesia. As we considered Paul’s language and ideas we noticed him shift the believer’s eyes beyond their present challenges to the eschaton where they will stand complete (v.6), and be pure and blameless (v.10), having produced a harvest of righteousness through their participation in and through Jesus Christ. What a wonderful prayer full of truth and hope, and what a wise pastoral move. The world needs God’s hope in the midst of the carnage which surrounds us.

I know this prayer is one among many we could have considered, but its theology is so relevant for our present context; Paul was in a Roman prison (v.7, 13, 14, 17), but some days I think our 21st C world experiences equally restrictive chains. As I write this there have been terrorist attacks in London, and in May this year 22 were killed in the Manchester bombing. North Korea is increasingly challenging, Russia is a worry, Brexit is drawing close, and then there is the devastation in Syria and the Sudan (to name a few current global concerns). While the world stage is clearly quite unstable (and Trump isn’t helping!), instability comes much closer to home. I think our congregation is probably quite typical of many suburban churches: parents are way too busy with their children’s extra-curricular activities; marriages are under pressure; the elderly struggle with ill health and on-set of winter; individuals are facing disappointments and personal issues; and we are increasingly isolated in our busy, busy lives. We all seem to live in chains of some sort.

Paul’s prayer lifts my eyes off myself and even our church and reminds me that there is more and it warms my heart and encourages me. I am challenged again that as a preacher we need to constantly hold out God’s eschatological hope. As the world looks dark and our congregation faces increasingly poverty and inequality, perhaps we need to make sure each message is peppered with God’s hope.

I was encouraged and blessed by this reminder anyway.

Thanks for listening. Stay warm this winter and enjoy the comfort of being known by God in Christ.

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