I. Establish the text
A. Select the Pericope: Second Reading Philippians 3:4b-14
C. Other texts for Year A for World Communion Sunday, October 2nd in Ordinary Time
D. Brainstorm: What questions/thoughts come to mind?
4b Today, our salaries and prestige are signs of attainment.
5-6 What would we list as outward signs of status? Citizenship, academic degrees, professional titles, salary, residence location, … Deacon, Elder, Minister, Missionary, …
7-8 Accolades in other areas become losses/dung due to frittering time that could have been used deepening a relationship with Christ.
9 Material success by one’s own hands is inferior to anything Christ might enfold upon the recipients.
10-11 Salvation is attained within the fellowship of Christ’s suffering, not by suffering alongside Christ.
12-14 Conversion is not a brief prayer, but a continual daily striving.
E. Reconsider where the text begins and ends: What got chopped out?
- Should this passage be shortened/extended?
- Will the hearers need an introduction before it is read?
F. Are there any significant variants in the manuscripts? Why?
- When scribes hand copied the Bible, various errors crept in or were ‘corrected’ by later editors.
- This boast is given as a response to “evil workers” who espoused a false theology.
- Followed by applying this theological declaration by seeking a heavenly citizenship.
II. Literary Study.
III. Question the text.
C. What is the center of gravity of the text? Where was the author heading? What question did the author intend to answer? What is the emotional center of the text? What music would it call for?
- Center of Gravity: Religious trappings are a detriment to fellowship in the sufferings of Christ.
- Emotional Center: Paul rejected the accolades that many had striven for and failed to attain so that he might attain resurrection from the dead.
D. Look for conflict: stated or implied.
- Paul listed persecution o f the Church among his achievements.
IV. What do the commentaries have to say about the text?
Gerald F. Hawthorne (Word Biblical Commentary: Philippians, Word Inc., 1983) does not split verse 4. He notes the rhetoric form Paul used was designed to praise/blame; thus by praising his own accomplishments, Paul implicitly diminished his opponents for their not being his equal. Hawthorne unpacks Paul’s belonging to the tribe of Benjamin: a tribe although small, was esteemed; Benjamin was Rachael’s second son, the only one of the 12 born in the promised land; Jerusalem was within the lands assigned to Benjamin; Israel’s first legitimate king, Saul, was from Benjamin; When the kingdom split, only Benjamin remained loyal to Judah, the tribe of David; famously faithful Mordecai was a Benjaminite. Examining the Greek word for “loss,” Hawthorne concludes that Paul not merely counted these accolades as loss, but actually lost the benefit of them by claiming Christ. Hawthorne’s explanation links this passage to Paul’s Damascus Road experience, when Paul experienced a “radical transvaluation of values.” … “To this end, Paul, although dead to sin by the virtue of Christ’s death for him, nevertheless, bu his own continuous, conscious choice was prepared to take this fact seriously, to take sides with Christ against himself, to bring his practice in the world in line with his position in Christ, to renounce his own selfish desires, and say “yes” to Christ who was calling him to conform himself to his death by daily taking up his cross in self-sacrificing service to others.”
Morna D. Hooker (The New Interpreter’s Bible, “Letter to Philippians,” Abingdon, 2000) concurs with Hawthorne that Paul may have been forcibly stripped of the privileges associated with his Jewish achievements as a result of his conversion to Christianity.
Ernest W. Saunders (Knox Preaching Guides: 1 Thessalonians | 2 Thessalonians | Philippians | Philemon, John Knox Press, 1981): “Them movement of the discussion is surprising and significant – he first mentions the power of the resurrection, then fellowship of the suffering. … [W]e cannot enter into Christ’s suffering and death apart from the assurance of resurrection-life.”
V. With respect to the hearers (including the preacher), What does this text want to say and do?
Those times when my sermons were best received,
when parishioners came up and said: “I felt you were preaching directly to me,”
were those times when I was preaching to myself. — Rabbi Chet Diamond