| October 8, 2020|
"I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth
of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord."
- Philippians 3:8
Greetings in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ!What is your best-ever accomplishment? A degree? A marathon? Your children? An award? A dream job? Travel? One of my favorites always catches people by surprise - I climbed an aaaalmost-14,000ft mountain in Colorado when I was in college (and before knee replacements!). I had tried three years in a row, and I finally made it on try #4. I will never forget how little oxygen there was at the top - for what seemed like hours, it was step, step breathe, step, step, breathe. I could barely walk the next day, but by the grace of God, I did it.
Paul had a remarkable list of accomplishments. He was well-educated, well-traveled, well-born, a Roman citizen from birth, and "a Hebrew of Hebrews." But in Philippians 3, he lays it all down. Paul is confronting the false teachers of the era who were using their accomplishments and strict adherence to Jewish law to distort the gospel of Jesus Christ. Paul lists a long lineup of his accomplishments that could match the false teachers point by point, but then in verse 8, he says something shocking: "I consider them garbage!" (the Greek word is even stronger than that!). None of his human accomplishments have any value to him. It is as if Paul tears up his resume and sets the pieces on fire.
The only thing he has of eternal value is Jesus Christ. Any righteousness Paul has is from Christ, a gift from God through faith.
In place of the smoldering bits of resume, Paul clings to the cross of Christ. His faith is not just an Easter Sunday faith. It goes much deeper than that. He declares, "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" (Phil 3:10-11). He actually uses the Greek word koinonia, "fellowship", to talk about sharing in Christ's sufferings. He realizes that to get to know Christ, we need to experience suffering, not just victory. It is in the hardship and struggle that we start to understand the depth of Christ's sacrifice for us, the breadth of his love, the length of his grace, the height of his victory.
The journey of faith is a difficult one. And 2020 has been an especially difficult year on the journey. Somehow, though, God often uses these hard times to draw us closer to him. In the fellowship of suffering, God refines us. He teaches us what has value and what is just a fleeting puff of smoke.
My hike up the mountain was a fleeting accomplishment, but I will treasure the things it taught me, especially that the view from the top of a mountain you've struggled to climb is much more satisfying than the view from the top of a mountain you reached in a car.
This year feels like an impossible mountain to climb. We are definitely in the midst of a fellowship of suffering. But Paul reminds us that this is not the end. We can all join with Paul as he exhorts us, "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.
Step, step, breathe. With Christ's help, we will make it. And just imagine the view from the top!
"Parktoberfest" Next Saturday!
Mark your calendar for a fellowship gathering on Saturday, October 17, from 4:30-6:30 p.m. You are invited to bring your own tailgate dinner and we'll distance cars throughout our parking lot. A few tables will be set up for walkers. At 5:30, there will be music provided by church members and friends. In between music sets, there will be an in-car game that individuals and families can participate in. Come join us for the fun! You are welcome to simply come at 5:30 and park in our lower lot for the music, or bring dinner and stay in any of our parking lots or move to the lower lot before 5:30. Music will be broadcast through your car radio.
We are now offering in-person Sunday School for all ages. We only have three rooms in the church with enough space and ventilation to be able to gather safely, so we will only have three groups for now: Adults will meet in the sanctuary, Children in the Fellowship Hall, and Youth in the MacDonald Room. The unified adult class is sponsored by the Lamplighters and will be a hybrid format, so those who want to attend via Zoom will be able to do so. This is the link to log in at 11:15 - https://duq.zoom.us/j/97403542430 Pastor Steve will be leading the class, based on the Introduction to the Bible class he also teaches at Duquesne University. If you would like to be on the email list for the adult class, please let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org
In addition to these Sunday School offerings, we have several small groups meeting online almost every day of the week, and we have groups for Tweeners, Middle School and High School, Young Adults, and coed groups. The women's group is studying Thessalonians 1 and 2, and the men's group are studying the Bible's guidance about issues of race and justice. If you are interested in becoming part of one of these groups, please contact us at 412-531-3387 or email@example.com
Neighborhood Prayer Walk:
Please join us on Saturday, October 24 as we walk into the neighborhoods close to our church. The purpose of this prayer walk is to pray for our neighbors, our local businesses, our first responders, and our local communities. We are praying that we can touch our neighbors with the Light of Jesus Christ. We will be prayer walking from 10:00AM to Noon. After the prayer walk, we will be gathering at the Church at 12:15PM to come together to share our prayer walk experiences. We are expecting to go out in groups of three or four; we will be wearing masks and using social distancing to keep everyone safe as we prayer walk. If you are unable to join us for the prayer walk, you are invited to sit in the drive-through and pray with us. If you prefer to not leave your home, we will also be providing a Prayer Guide so you can pray with us from home.
Hour of Prayer:
A group of us gather on Zoom every Sunday at 7pm to pray together, and we would love to have you join us! Zoom is now requiring a password for our meetings, so please use this new link: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/92561964416?pwd=NmZoNDV3dDNqSVFubW82TEx0bll0Zz09 (for a computer, tablet, or mobile phone). You can also call in from a regular phone - dial 1-646-558-8656 and enter the Meeting ID - 925 6196 4416 and now add the password 798565. For more info, contact Pat Gaudio at firstname.lastname@example.org.
As always, please let us know if there is any way we can support you or connect with you during this season. You can email us at email@example.com, with any needs, prayer requests, or just updates on how you are doing. And you are always welcome to call us at 412-531-3387.