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. I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.
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. 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 toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:4b-14)
I had a conversation once with my clergy colleague in the episcopal office in which we compared our grandmothers. I had a Korean grandmother. He had a German one. Both loved us without condition. They were present for us. They were like God in the flesh, too: they were always calling us forward that we might become more.
In the lectionary text from Philippians, Paul writes from prison with joy for material support from the Philippian assembly. Paul senses he is in danger. Instead of being safe or muted, he uses terms like, ‘straining forward,’ and ‘I press on.’ God’s Spirit always meets us where we are and calls us forward to grow in love. The theologian John Cobb speaks of the call forward. We affirm that God works in the things that are limited by means of whispering in the potential of those things to call us forward.
These days hold a delay in General Conference, but the church is still called forward as an annual conference and as local churches, as agencies, and small groups, as Sunday schools, and new faith communities. A God who asks us to pray for God’s realm to come on earth as in heaven is an adventurous God.
Can we step forward as a church in mission with Ukraine? Can we step forward into relationships that increase our own knowledge of another person’s experience of race? Can we step forward in Lent to become a more fully devoted follower of Jesus? I am grateful for our Wesleyan theology and its call to grow in love.
How has God called you forward of late? If God is calling you forward, we know that God will be both in the journey and in the newness ahead. I thank God for my grandmother and love that would have us press on.
Bishop Hee-Soo Jung has served as resident bishop of the Wisconsin Annual Conference since September of 2012. Prior to leading the Wisconsin Conference UMC, Bishop Jung served eight years as bishop of the Northern Illinois Conference (Chicago area).