Sermon for the Fifth Sunday in Lent

Text: Phil 3:7-9a.
"All those things that I might count as profit I now reckon as loss for Christís sake. Not only those things; I reckon everything as complete loss for the sake of what is much more valuable, the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have thrown everything away; I consider it all as mere garbage, so that I may gain Christ and be completely united with him" .

Trivial Pursuit

Let me start with a piece of trivia. About 600 years ago Englandís graveyards were filling up so it was decided to reuse the graves. As they dug up the old coffins they discovered scratch marks on the inside of the coffin lid. Since medical science was very primitive it was decided that some people had been buried alive. To remedy this, a string was tied to the wrist of the deceased. This string lead through the coffin and up through the ground and tied it to a bell. Someone would have to sit out in the graveyard all night to listen for the bell. That's where the saying "graveyard shift" came from. If the bell would ring they would know that someone was "saved by the bell" or he was a "dead ringer".

Iím sure you really wanted to know that little piece of trivia.

Or perhaps this piece of trivia. Coca Cola was originally green. Or that itís impossible to lick your own elbow. Or that it's impossible to sneeze with your eyes open.

When you think about it, our daily lives are made of quite a bit of trivia - lots of little insignificant things. Iím thinking of things like brushing your teeth, combing your hair, eating breakfast cereal, putting a hanky in your pocket, hanging out the washing, doing the dishes, having a shower and so on. None of these events will ever be recorded in any history book or be remembered when we leave this life. When our obituary is read at our funeral those at the service wonít hear about all those events that make up 90% of our life Ė those little mundane things.

Even though those ordinary events make up so much of our life they arenít anywhere near as important as the day we married our spouse, or the birth of our children, the happy times we have spent together as a family, or the marriage of our own children and the arrival of grandchildren.

Cleaning our teeth and hanging out the washing are important in their own way but nowhere near as important as our education and the career path we take.

What is more important: a big screen colour TV set or good relationships in a family where family members share, support and help one another? I'm not saying the two can't go together but which is more important if you had the choice?

Which is more enjoyable - a lavish dinner with all the trimmings in an atmosphere of anxiety and bitterness, or fish and chips eaten in an atmosphere of love and understanding all round?

The world is really good at making trivial things seem important. The people involved in advertising know exactly how to make trivial things seem so important. In fact they make it seem that our lives wouldnít be complete if we didnít follow their advice. Drink this brand of soft drink; use this deodorant; buy that car; try this cleaning product. Buy these and you'll be as happy as those bright, young, smiling, beautiful people in the advertisement! Advertisers try to convince us that the purchase of these things is more important than anything else in the entire world. They try to convince us that the pursuit of trivia is the easy path to happiness. And would you know it, so often we fall for it, hook, line and sinker again and again.

It's so easy to turn anthills into mountains. We get all mixed up. Little things are treated as big things and big things are treated as little things. We get side-tracked and our lives are given direction by the small things, the unimportant things. Well, what really are the important things?

For a start God is important. Now I know I hardly needed to say that in the present company. Everyone here in this church knows that! But we all know how often we forget what is really important and get everything out of perspective.

The existence of God and his love for you and me is far more important than knowing the exact age of the earth as interesting and as important as that information might be.
The undeserved and unmerited love of God for us is far more important than knowing all the details of how vast and awesome the universe is.
That God has adopted us into his family through the water of baptism and promised to always walk by our side during the good and bad times in our journey through life is more important than having lots of money or owning the biggest house in town.
There is nothing more important in the entire world than the special love that he has for each of us. And yet somehow we manage to get sidetracked. We easily follow what other people consider to be the most important values and things.

When Jesus lived on this earth, he wasnít sidetracked by trivialities. He was always focussed on what was important. As difficult as it was for him to do so sometimes (when he was tempted in the wilderness by Satan and tested in the Garden of Gethsemane the night he was betrayed), nevertheless he always kept his eyes focussed on what was important.

Jesus reached out to people in love. He healed people. He raised people from the dead. He forgave their sins. He taught them and challenged them to "take up their cross and follow him". These were great things but the greatest was still to come. He died on a brutal cross and in doing so paid the price for our failures and our over emphasis on the unimportant things of life.

Jesus died. And he was raised again. There is nothing trivial about what is happening here. This is the most important piece of news to have ever come into our world. Jesus died for our sakes. He went through all of that just for us, simply because he wants us all to share in the joy of eternal life. If you want to know what is the most important thing in this life Ė this is it. Jesus and everything he has done for us.

In his letter to the Philippians Paul put it this way. "I reckon everything as complete loss for the sake of what is much more valuable, the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have thrown everything away; I consider it all as mere garbage, so that I may gain Christ and be completely united with him" (Phil 3:8-9a).

Whatever Paul had considered as important prior to his conversion is now longer his first priority. Once Paul thought his heritage as a Jew, the festivals and ceremonies of the Jewish religion, and obedience to the law, were the most important things. But in comparison with the Christ all of this pales into insignificance, or to use Paulís word, "I consider it all as mere garbage."

When we die and come face to face with God, the question is not going to be,
"What kind of home did you live in?
What kind of car did you drive?
On what sports teams did you play?
Did you wear the latest fashions?
Did you have a dishwasher?
Or, were you a success in your business?"
The only question will be, "How do you stand with God? Are you in a right relationship with him through faith in Jesus as your Saviour?"

God knows all about the trivial pursuits that fill our lives.
God knows how we follow the ways of the world and how we so easily conformist to the worldís standards.
He knows about the small things that we promote to a central place in our lives, and he is prepared to forgive us and help us change our direction.
He knows how we fill our lives with so many unimportant things and try to live without him.
He knows all about the person who is a whale of a success at work but is a miserable failure at home.
He knows all about the high place money and material goods have in our lives and forgetting the simple joys of faithfulness, love and care. We pursue so many trivial things, to the detriment of what is really important. That's why he sent us Jesus to be our Saviour. We can get so disgusted with ourselves for all the times we are so easily led astray and follow trivial things instead of following Jesus. Out of love for us he came to die for all the times we get our priorities wrong.

One of the reasons we need regular and faithful commitment to church attendance is that here we can make a time for a weekly mini-retreat to a place where the ordinary business of living is set aside to re-focus on what is really important. It is a time to find forgiveness, to celebrate, to give thanks and to hear what he has to say through his Word. This is a time when we can place Jesus and the work he has given us as the one thing that is truly important in our lives. Itís so easy to get sidetracked and to get things upside down, giving trivia more of our time and energy than it really deserves.

Lent is a time of looking at our lives and reassessing where things are heading. Itís so easy to get caught up in false worldly values and end up regarding Jesus and his love for us as less important than we should.
Today we are challenged to put first things first.
We are challenged to take another look at what we regard as important and to recognise those things that we have elevated to take the place of the most important of all things.
There is nothing trivial about Jesus Christ Ė his suffering and dying for us.
There is nothing trivial about the special relationship that we have with our heavenly Father through our Baptism.
There is nothing trivial about the presence of our Saviour in our everyday lives as he comforts, guides and supports us.
There is nothing trivial about the promise Jesus gave that "All who live and believe in him will never die" but will enjoy life in heaven forever.
There is nothing trivial about the impact you and I can have on our world as we seek to serve our fellow human beings through the love of Jesus.

In Jesus Christ there is life. There is nothing trivial about that!

© Pastor Vince Gerhardy
28th March, 2004
E-mail: gerhardy65@hotmail.com

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