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.

Note to the Teacher

The key phrase in this week and in this entire series is: PRESS ON. Over the next several weeks, we will be focused on moving forward in our faith and working toward where God calls us. This week, we will explore turning away from our status. The word Paul uses in verse 8 (translated in CEB as “sewer trash”) is a strong word that some have argued may go as far as being a first-century swear word. We don’t encourage you to swear, but we do encourage you to understand how negative Paul’s characterization is of the very things he was once praised for by society. The goal is to help students let go of how society assigns value to people and things and instead focus on the value of God.

1. Ice Breaker: Status Symbols? (10 minutes)

  • Before you gather, assemble a large collection of photos from celebrity magazines or news stories online. You can bring physical clippings or download the images to your device. If doing this activity virtually, screen share images from your device.
  • Begin by telling students that you are going to be exploring status symbols together.
  • Explain that status symbols are the things that people do, wear, own, or use that indicate a person’s wealth or high social status. The status symbols can even be places people go. Modern examples may include numbers of followers, “likes,” or other badges on social media or game platforms.
  • Nominate one student to write down all the status symbols on a whiteboard or on a piece of paper as students identify them. If doing this activity virtually, students can write together in a chat as well.
  • Show one picture at a time to the students and ask them to identify as many status symbols in each image as they can.
  • Once you have analyzed all the pictures (or are close to running out of time), ask the student who was writing the symbols down to read each one aloud. Further the discussion with these questions:
  • What are some of the characteristics that multiple status symbols share in common?
  • What kinds of things or ideas are not present in the list?
  • What about these symbols causes our culture to treat these symbols as more important than others? Does our culture treat people differently because they have (or do not have) symbols like these?
  • What are status symbols present in your school and what do they represent?

2. Read Scripture (5 minutes)

Read Philippians 3:4b-14. This scripture can seem complicated. Make sure to encourage the students to read slowly. Consider having two students reading the scripture back-to-back, or read and compare different translations.

3. Discussion (15 minutes)

  • Paul begins by listing things that were status symbols in his day. Which of the things from his list surprised you? Are there any that are still considered status symbols?
  • Paul doesn’t think these things are valueless. What does he say about them in the beginning of verse 8?
  • Paul talks about pursuing something in verse 12. What is he pursing?
  • There is a visual metaphor Paul employs: He has let go of the status symbols so that he can grab hold of what Jesus wants him to do and be. How would someone today let go of status symbols?
  • What could help you make the decision to let go of status symbols and grab hold of a life transformed by Jesus?
  • How do we pursue Jesus in our lives?

4. Activity and Discussion (20 minutes)

Many times, status symbols for celebrities are conveyed in the logos of the brands they wear (or create!) or in the designs seen on their clothes or things they include in their social media posts. We are going to take a moment to create a visual representation of biblical status symbols:

You could also consider listing behaviors like the “Fruits of the Spirit” from Galatians as an example of “behavioral status symbols.”

  • Begin by giving students drawing or coloring utensils and a t-shirt design template. You can find printable templates by searching for “shirt design templates” online.
  • Once students have their templates, ask everyone, “What are some biblical status symbols that Paul might want us to ‘press on’ and pursue?”
  • Now we are going to turn those ideas into graphical status symbols that would appear on a t-shirt. Don’t just write the words down; consider what font might work or what graphic or symbol would match the idea. Draw that logo or design on the shirt template.
  • Once students have had a chance to design, invite them to share with everyone what status symbol they chose and why they represented them the way they did.
  • If you are meeting online, allow students time to print their own template or draw a shirt outline for themselves.

Total time: 50 minutes

Needed resources:

  • Celebrity pictures, either from magazines or downloaded to a device
  • Pencils and/or crayons
  • Shirt templates printout

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