13 Brothers and sisters, I myself don’t think I’ve reached it, but I do this one thing: I forget about the things behind me and stretch forth toward things ahead of me. 14 The goal I pursue is the prize of God’s upward call in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 3: 11 – 4
I recently read an article called Epektasis: Antidote to Fear of Change written by E. Glenn Hinson for the publication Weavings. The article addressed how fear of change can become immobilizing, but necessary for our spiritual growth. Most of us like to be comfortable, to find our spot in life and put down roots. But in the passage above from the Apostle Paul’s letter to the church at Philippi the Apostle presents the image of a runner in an Olympic race.
In our mind’s eye we can almost see this runner. He is not looking behind him, competitive runners know this is the one sure way to lose the competition. But rather, the runner keeps his focus forward. The runner is, instead lengthening his stride, and pressing forward. Hinson wrote, “Note please, there are two motions in that, both important: forget things behind. Stretch forth toward those ahead. ’Stretch forth toward’ is the English translation for the Greek word epektasis. Fourth Century Bishop Gregory of Nyssa made the concept of epektasis the cornerstone of his teaching on the spiritual life. The foundation of the spiritual life is the stretching forward, like a runner, pressing on toward the goal. The goal was described by Paul as the “upward call in Christ Jesus.” In Christ, we continue to pursue God, to pursue godliness and Christlikeness. We continue to press forward to further God’s Kingdom here on earth, proclaiming Good News to the poor, release for the imprisoned, give sight to the blind and to liberate the oppressed.
Moving forward though, means not looking backwards, forgetting the things behind. It sounds a bit like the passage from Isaiah 43 we read from my first Sunday at College Avenue:
18 Don’t remember the prior things; don’t ponder ancient history. 19 Look! I’m doing a new thing; now it sprouts up; don’t you recognize it? I’m making a way in the desert, paths in the wilderness.
We are in a new season, a new era here at College Avenue UMC. The community around us has changed, the culture and society around the community have changed, the Church has changed. In order to continue to fulfill our mission we will have to change too. We are in a state of epektasis. I know that sounds scary, I know the unknown is frightening. But remember, we are going to build upon the foundation that has been laid for us throughout the generation of ministry here at CAUMC. We are going to celebrate the New Thing God is doing. We are going to remember that God has called us, We belong to God, God is making a way. Together we will turn our anxiety about leaving the past and the change that may entail and trade it for excitement for the endless possibilities before us.
I am excited to be here a College Avenue and to see what God is going to do in us and through us.
Grace and Peace,