Sermon for the Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost
(Proper 22)

Text: Phil 3:10a
“All I want is to know Christ.”

Pursuing what is important

What was Sir Donald Bradman’s batting average? (99.94)
In what city did the Commonwealth Parliament first sit? (Melbourne)
Which band has received an Australian of the Year Award? (The Seekers)
What Australian movie includes the phrase “Tell him he’s dreaming”? (The Castle).
What is the tallest waterfall in Australia? (Wallaman Falls, Qld).
Where is the Big Prawn? (Ballina).

If you ever want to go on the TV show Million Dollar Minute that’s the kind of knowledge you would need.  You don’t have to be academically brilliant.  In fact, there have been contestants on the show whom I would consider to come from professions that require a good deal of intelligence.  Those who win are the people who can absorb and recall trivia – small details from everyday life that other people simply overlook as unimportant.  If someone asked me, “What nationality was the person who invented the dual flush toilet?” I wouldn’t know because it’s a piece of trivia that I’ve considered not important enough to want to store in my memory forever.  (By the way, it is an Australian – Bruce Thompson in 1980).

When you think about it, our daily lives are made up of quite a bit of trivia – lots of little insignificant things.  I’m thinking of things like brushing your teeth, combing your hair, eating breakfast cereal, hanging out the washing, doing the dishes, having a shower and so on.  None of these events will ever be recorded in a biography of our life.  When our obituary is read at our funeral all those little mundane things that make up 90% of our life won’t get a mention. 

Even though those ordinary events make up so much of our life, they aren’t anywhere near as important as the day we were married, or the birth of our children, the happy times we’ve spent together as a family, or the marriage of our own children and the arrival of grandchildren. 

What is more important – a trendy expensive overseas holiday that masks underlying family tension or a low key holiday where family members share, support and help and enjoy one another’s company and the whole event enhances their relationships? 

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 unimportant 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 wouldn’t be complete if we didn’t follow their advice.  They keep telling us in their advertising that if we really want to have a happy and complete life then it’s not possible unless we use their product.
Drive this kind of car.
Buy this brand of cleaning product.
Use this insurance policy.
Buy these and you'll be as happy meerkat eating a Happy Meal at McDonald’s!  

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 need 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 how much we are earning or what brand labels are on our clothes. 
There is nothing more important in the entire world than the special love that God has for each of us.  And yet somehow we manage to get side-tracked. Paul says in Romans 12, “Don't copy the behaviour and customs of this world” and yet that’s exactly what we do. We copy what other people consider to be the most important and place them before God and his love for us.  It’s easy to copy the world’s values and not even now we’re doing it.  Because everyone else is doing it, it’s natural to think it’s ok, when in actual fact, it’s not God’s way.

Satan attempted to side-track Jesus in the wilderness with all kinds of temptations and get him to focus on fame and saving himself and not on being the Saviour of all people. 
The disciples at times were side-tracked by trivialities (like the discussion about who will be the greatest in the kingdom of heaven).   
The Pharisees and leaders of the Jews tried to discredit Jesus in front of the people with all kind of unimportant issues but Jesus always focussed on what was important. He always came back to the main reason for his presence on earth, “I have come in order that you might have life—life in all its fullness” (John 10:10).

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 the most important thing in this life is – this is it.  Jesus and everything he has done for us.

In his letter to the Philippians, Paul put it this way, “Everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ” (Phil 3:8-9a).   

Whatever Paul had considered as important prior to his conversion is no 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 Paul’s word, “I consider it all as mere garbage.”

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 to us 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.  This is the one time we can be served by Jesus as he gives us his body and blood and we are totally focussed on him and his love for us.  While the world around us is screaming, “Make me the most important part of your life”, the time we spend with Jesus here on Sunday and every day in prayer and devotion time, keeps us focussed.   

Paul is making it so clear to his readers.  “Everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord … All I want is to know Christ”.  That is the most important thing for him.  Everything else is not important – it’s rubbish.  It is Christ and only Christ who can give hope.  When it comes down to it everything in this world will pass away, even this body, and it is then that we only have Christ and he gives us everything we need.

It’s so easy to get everything upside down and our values and priorities topsy-turvy 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 – his suffering and dying for us. 
There is nothing trivial about the special relationship that our heavenly Father has with us and this is made clear to us in Baptism and in Holy Communion. 
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.

Keeping Christ central in a world that demands that so many other things are more important is hard work and it’s becoming more and more difficult to make Christ central in our ever increasing secular society that has no understanding of God whatsoever.  The apostle knew that as well as anyone because he also lived in a non-christian world and talked about constant striving and to never think that this business is a pushover – because it’s not. 

He knows how important Jesus is and so he keeps on reminding himself, “All I want to know is Christ” and he keeps on telling those whom he loves, “All you need to know is Christ – he is the most important”.

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

© Pastor Vince Gerhardy
5th October 2014

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