Not that I have already obtained this or have already reached the goal; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Beloved, I do not consider that I have made it my own; but this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on towards the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us then who are mature be of the same mind; and if you think differently about anything, this too God will reveal to you. Only let us hold fast to what we have attained.
The theme of today’s text follows on from yesterday’s. The ‘goal’ mentioned by Paul is knowing the the Risen Christ, a life-long relationship which available for everyone. For Paul, he is focused and unswerving – even single-minded – towards his goal.
Wherever there is a goal, there is also a journey towards the goal.
Recently, a friend invited me to join him at his weekly paddle-sport club at a local reservoir, an experience which inspired this reflection.
As I knelt in the canoe, paddle in hand, the instructor recommended that I have a goal in mind, like a point on the opposite bank of the reservoir. It was a lovely summer’s evening with little wind, and as long as I kept my strokes to the left and right even, I made good progress towards my goal. Occasionally, I had a stronger or weaker stroke to one side which threw me off course. Also, there were slight gusts of wind which affected my course. If I allowed my thoughts to wander, or take my eye of my goal, I was more likely to go off-course.
As individuals, and as church communities, we are “Walking the Way” towards our goal. We have stronger and weaker days which affect our faith journey, like my paddling strokes. There are times when we are affected by external events, like the wind against my canoe; and sometimes, we are temporarily distracted and lose sight of our goal.
I also learnt on the reservoir that regaining control towards my goal needed care – it was easy to overcompensate and end up going off-course in a different direction! The same can so easily be true in our lives and Walk.
Finally, my evening in the canoe reminded me that the journey can be fun, too!
Risen Christ, You met Your Disciples on the shore, and they began their Journeys. You calmed the stormy sea, and they knelt in awe of Your power. You walked throughout Judea, and they learnt how to walk Your Way. You gave Yourself up and yet rose in glory, and You were theirs all until their last days. Source, Guide, and Goal of all that is: be for us, as You were for them. Amen.
Walt Johnson, Elder, Wilbraham St Ninian’s URC, Chorlton, Manchester