That I May Gain Christ

Pressing On

Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost, Year A

This is World Communion Sunday, a service that could certainly stand on its own. It carries enough weight and meaning to not need the support of a larger theme. Many worshiping communities have traditions and practices that accompany World Communion Sunday, and those should remain in place. Let this service be significant in the minds and hearts of the congregation.

7I thought things like that were really something great. But now I consider them to be nothing because of Christ. 8Even more, I consider everything to be nothing compared to knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. To know him is worth much more than anything else. Because of him I have lost everything. But I consider all of it to be garbage so I can know Christ better. 9I want to be joined to him. Being right with God does not come from my obeying the law. It comes because I believe in Christ. It comes from God because of faith. 10I want to know Christ better. Yes, I want to know the power that raised him from the dead. I want to join him in his sufferings. I want to become like him by sharing in his death. 11Then by God’s grace I will rise from the dead.

12I have not yet received all these things. I have not yet reached my goal. Christ Jesus took hold of me so that I could reach that goal. So I keep pushing myself forward to reach it. 1 Brothers and sisters, I don’t consider that I have taken hold of it yet. But here is the one thing I do. I forget what is behind me. I push hard toward what is ahead of me. 14I push myself forward toward the goal to win the prize. God has appointed me to win it. The heavenly prize is Christ Jesus himself.

This is World Communion Sunday. Today, the children’s sermon should be presented different than from any other Sunday. While the entire service should be devoted to World Communion, allow the children to participate fully in the service. If you are meeting in person and release the children to children’s church, entertain the idea of keeping them for the entire service so that they can experience the world collectively experiencing Communion together. Provide creative ways to portray the collective world. Present the Holy Communion liturgy in multiple languages. Offer a variety of breads taken from all around the world. Show images or video of people in other cultures partaking in Communion.

Props: Picture of Leroy “Satchel” Paige

Children’s message

How many of you have ever been in a foot race? What is the one thing that can slow you down? (Let children give answers.) All those things can slow you down in a race. When I was in school during gym, we had to run all the way around the school building. I remember one thing that I heard from my gym teacher before running was, “Don’t look back.” Our teacher told us that looking back or behind you slows you down.

That reminds me of a quote from a famous athlete, Satchel Paige (hold up photo). Satchel was a major league baseball pitcher, but he didn’t play in the major leagues until he was 42 years old! The average age of a major league baseball player today is 27. Satchel was known for throwing strikes with his fastball. He was also known for the things he said.

One of Satchel’s most famous quotes was, “Don’t look back. Something might be gaining on you,” which reminds me of what my gym teacher told us at school.

Our teacher gave us two reasons why looking back slows you down. First, you spend too much time looking where you have been and not where you are going. Second, you lose sight of the finish line. Satchel reminds us that if you look back, you slow down, and something might be gaining on you. Keep pressing forward and focus on the finish line.

Today’s Bible verse speaks of the same thing. Paul is talking about pressing toward a goal or winning a race. Paul knows that he has not yet won the race, but he is still trying to win the prize. He states in verse 13, “But here is the one thing I do. I forget what is behind me. I push hard toward what is ahead of me. 14I push myself forward toward the goal to win the prize. God has appointed me to win it. The heavenly prize is Christ Jesus himself.” In other words, Paul doesn’t look back! He knows not to spend time thinking about the past, but to reach for the ultimate prize, Jesus!

As we take Communion, we bring our past to the altar with us. When we taste the bread and drink the juice, we think about what Jesus did for each of us, and we focus on the prize. When we finish Communion, just like in a race, and as Paul tells us, “Don’t look back, press on toward the prize!” And the prize we have is Jesus Christ, our Savior!

Prayer: Loving and forgiving God, we thank you for the reminder to not look back and think about our past regrets and mistakes. On this World Communion Sunday, let us focus on the prize that is Jesus Christ and to press on toward that prize in everything we do. In Jesus’ strong and precious name, Amen.

New International Reader's Version (NIRV) Copyright © 1995, 1996, 1998, 2014 by Biblica, Inc.®. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

In This Series...

Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost, Year A - Lectionary Planning Notes Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost, Year A - Lectionary Planning Notes Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost, Year A - Lectionary Planning Notes Reformation Sunday, Year A - Lectionary Planning Notes