excerpt of sermon, Philippians 3:7-11
…I want to stick with this word: faith. Faith in Christ…what does this mean? If we look elsewhere in the Bible, we’ll find the letter to the Hebrews saying that ‘…faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.’ When I was younger, I remember asking my Sunday School teachers how God exists. The usual response was something along the lines of, ‘well, Jeffrey, you just have to have faith.’ I’ll be honest, this never did it for me. I never liked this answer as a kid, and I certainly don’t like this answer of, ‘well, you just have to have faith’ now as an adult. And I think Paul understands that if what he is talking about is true, then we, as the readers of this letter, need a little more to hang our hats on.
And this is where the entirety of this text comes to life. For Paul, this faith is built upon not only an ‘idea,’ but on lived experience and trust. Paul has faith, because he tried to live the other way, under the law. He was successful under the law. He was popular under the law. How many of us are living under the law today? How many of us went to the right school, got the right job, bought the right car, married the right person? Had kids at the right time?
Nicodemus, from our children’s sermon, was the same way. Why did Paul do it? Why did he give it up?
…it’s because Paul was miserable under the law, and he didn’t even know it until experiencing Christ.
And it wasn’t until he experienced Christ that he understood true liberation (he uses the word righteousness) with God. It was in his experience of Christ that EVERYTHING was changed, and he no longer needed his fancy home, or his powerful job, or his pension plan. This is when Paul began to understand, or to ‘know’ faith.
Brother Roger had a similar experience of Christ that led to his founding of Taizé, and this is why Taizé exists—to offer this same, and at the same time completely unique, experience of Christ to those who seek it.
And it’s this experience that Paul describes, that changes the way he lived his life. Faith in Christ is the product of experiencing Christ, when we no longer live out of selfishness, but instead out of abundance and liberation. Faith in Christ is a resurrection from the death of the life we currently live in. If we look back at verse 10, we then understand this in new terms as well; Paul speaks of resurrection here, today, a spiritual resurrection, as we learn to live with faith in Christ not only out of something we are told about, but out of experience.
The brothers of Taizé practice this resurrection each day. And the Good News that I bring to you this morning, is that this faith in Christ, this resurrection from death, is offered to each of you, right now. As we celebrate Rally Day, the renewing of the program year for our congregation, we also celebrate the renewing of our spiritual lives. And as we celebrate this Good News, we are able to live in trust and faith in Christ, and share this experience of liberation with the world.