To live is Christ – or living is Christ in today’s translation of Philippians 1:21 – what does that mean?
What does it mean to 1st century Paul and 21st century you and I?
To Jasmine whose happy day of Christian initiation this is?
To live is Christ. It’s a mystical saying, four words that sum up the life philosophy of Christianity’s greatest teacher. After a blinding light of revelation on the road to Damascus Paul had carried resurrection news of Jesus to the four corners of his world and now he is in prison. The words we read today are a letter from one under sentence of death who writes to me, living is Christ and dying is gain.
What assurance! Assurance linked to personal knowledge of our risen Saviour Jesus Christ. The Lord who had said to him what he would say to us this morning: Your way leads to a hopeless end. My way leads to an endless hope!
To live without Christ is to live towards a hopeless end. To live with Christ is to live towards an endless hope, for dying Jesus broke the power of death and rising opened joyous eternity to all who’ll live in him.
To live is Christ. What does that mean? It means to live your life with the gift of faith, rooted and grounded in the Christian community, walking with them in the way of Christ and the worship of his Church. So says the baptism service!
This is the way Harry, Milly, Anthia, Anicia and Jasmine want to follow and its lovely for Anthia and Anicia, baptised and confirmed last year, to be standing by their little sister this morning as the family commit her to God’s family of which they’ve made themselves part.
To live is Christ. Making an analogy with classic figures from ancient history St Alphonsus Liguori who lived in the 18th century wrote: Diogenes went about seeking a man upon earth: hominem quaero; but God seems to be seeking a Christian among the many faithful: Christianum quaero. For very few are they who have the works, the greater part have only the name; but to these should be said what Alexander said to that cowardly soldier who was also named Alexander: change either your name or your conduct: Aut nomen, aut mores muta. But as written elsewhere it would be better if these miserable creatures were put in confinement as madmen, believing as they do, that a happy eternity is prepared for him who lives well, and unhappy eternity for him who lives ill, and yet living as if they do not believe this.
We cannot say with Paul to live is Christ unless we not only believe in and pray in Christ’s name but also act in Christ’s name, act as if we believe.
Ten days ago I attended the Chichester diocesan clergy conference at the University of Kent. 300 priests and deacons worshipped, prayed and learned together gaining a new sense of purpose and collaboration under the leadership of our diocesan Bishop Martin Warner and his assistant Bishops Mark Sowerby of Horsham and Richard Jackson of Lewes. We were privileged to stay in freshly restored rooms at the University, to be fed like kings and to worship with Archbishops, so to speak, down the road in Canterbury Cathedral.
In his closing address Bishop Martin, who is like me a Latinist, took an ancient motto lex orandi lex credendi which means ‘the law of praying is the law of believing’ and added lex agendi, the law of action. The bishop wants seamless connection between Christian worship, the Christian creed and Christian action. What we pray is to be more fully linked to both what we believe and what we do with our lives and in our churches.
To live is Christ and to be rooted in Christian prayer, teaching and action. Bishop Martin extended this challenge to us as fellow priests and diocesan leaders to form up a diocese that’s younger, financially solvent and better at risk-taking. He wants tighter and more immediate communication across the church in Sussex and many more gifted laity operating in the counsels of the diocese, especially in finance, property and liaison with the political world.
Above all he applauded the virtue of kindness as a key quality of life in Christ. If to live is Christ that is to live kindly, literally in kindred, related to one another, to those whose nature, whose humanity we share. All of which is counter to the depersonalising commodification of the person that afflicts our culture.
The German philosopher Nietzche was no friend of Christianity and famously said: Show me that you are redeemed and then I will believe in your redeemer. He had a point. St Augustine was fully aware of that point 1500 years before him when he said No fragrance can be more pleasing to God than that of his own Son. May all the faithful breathe out the same perfume. If to live is Christ it is to be Christ to others through kindness.
To live is Christ which means not as mean-spirited, narrow-mind sour pusses lacking in mercy but as those who know forgiveness from God and who show it to others.
I know that my redeemer lives said Job in words prophesying Christ’s resurrection. To know that redeemer and his redemption from the tendency within to harm others is the work of the Holy Spirit. It is also the basis of hope in the face of death, as Paul adds, after saying to live is Christ, to die is gain. We are in life if we’re in Christ, life that can never die, eternal life.
Your way leads to a hopeless end. My way leads to an endless hope!
God’s nothing to do with death he’s our life and hope for ever!
To live is Christ is to know that life, to know that your redeemer lives, that he is your redeemer and that he lives in you by the grace and the fruit of baptism.
It’s to be the fragrance of Christ, giving people opportunity to breath in the perfume of his Spirit’s work in our lives.
To the joyless we bring joy, to the loveless we bring love to the unforgiving we bring forgiveness.
May such grace be ours through the eucharist we celebrate this morning.