Today's Lectionary Text
I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a deacon of the church at Cenchreae, so that you may welcome her in the Lord as is fitting for the saints, and help her in whatever she may require from you, for she has been a benefactor of many and of myself as well.
Greet Prisca and Aquila, who work with me in Christ Jesus, and who risked their necks for my life, to whom not only I give thanks, but also all the churches of the Gentiles. Greet also the church in their house. Greet my beloved Epaenetus, who was the first convert in Asia for Christ. Greet Mary, who has worked very hard among you. Greet Andronicus and Junia, my relatives who were in prison with me; they are prominent among the apostles, and they were in Christ before I was. Greet Ampliatus, my beloved in the Lord. Greet Urbanus, our co-worker in Christ, and my beloved Stachys. Greet Apelles, who is approved in Christ. Greet those who belong to the family of Aristobulus. Greet my relative Herodion. Greet those in the Lord who belong to the family of Narcissus. Greet those workers in the Lord, Tryphaena and Tryphosa. Greet the beloved Persis, who has worked hard in the Lord. Greet Rufus, chosen in the Lord; and greet his mother—a mother to me also. Greet Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermes, Patrobas, Hermas, and the brothers and sisters who are with them. Greet Philologus, Julia, Nereus and his sister, and Olympas, and all the saints who are with them. Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the churches of Christ greet you.
We American types love to celebrate the lone wolf, the independent hero, the self-made man [sic]. We remember the names of the generals, the CEOs, the explorer who planted the flag. We conveniently forget the foot soldiers, the countless employees, the partners, the colleagues and sherpas. Even in the church, we have our lone-wolf heroes, not the least of which is Paul.
But here in Romans 16, we have this litany of proof that Paul did not accomplish his great mission alone. He acknowledges Phoebe, a deacon and his benefactor. He says that Prisca and Aquila were not only co-workers in Christ; they risked their very lives for him. He lifts up his dear friends and cherishes their fidelity: Ampliatus, Stachys, Apelles. He names all the women who have “worked hard” (like we do) so that the gospel could flourish: Mary, Tryphena, Tryphosa, Persis. He humbles himself before Andronicus and Junia (another woman!), calls them apostles, and says they were in Christ even before him. This is just some of the list.
I am not immune to the lure of wanting to be the solitary hero. Even though it is tempting sometimes to think that my work is just between God and me, I know that I stand on the shoulders of Paul and Phoebe, Andronicus and Junia, John and Charles, Sojourner and Richard, Fanny and Georgia. In my time, there are countless contemporaries who challenge me and encourage me. I do nothing without myriad colleagues and friends and church-family members who labor by my side.
This is incredibly good news. Because last I checked, we are part of God’s dream to make this world like the kin(g)dom of heaven … and we have a long way to go. Transforming this world is a lot of work, but we’ve got the Holy Spirit and one another.
Thanks be to God we do not have to journey alone.
--Rev. Chris Jorgensen,
Omaha Hanscom Park UMC
Prayer for Reflection
Gracious and generous God, thank you for the family, friends, and colleagues you have given me. Help us to support one another as we do your work in the world, and multiply our work in ways we cannot even imagine. May it be so. Amen.
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