This week’s eNewsletter Feature
was written by Jim Teague,
FPCE director of communications.
Dear friends –
In Romans 16, the final chapter of that book, the Apostle Paul instructs the believers in Rome to pass on a litany of personal greetings:
1 I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a deacon of the church at Cenchreae, 2 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.
3 Greet Prisca and Aquila, my coworkers in Christ Jesus, 4 who risked their necks for my life, to whom not only I give thanks but also all the churches of the gentiles. 5 Greet also the church in their house. Greet my beloved Epaenetus, who was the first convert in Asia for Christ. 6 Greet Mary, who has worked very hard for you. 7 Greet Andronicus and Junia, my fellow Israelites who were in prison with me; they are prominent among the apostles, and they were in Christ before I was.
Paul goes on—for another nine verses—asking the believers in Rome to greet men and women, individuals, couples, families, and whole house churches. These instructions range from the extended details offered in verses 1 and 2 about Phoebe (who “has been a benefactor of many and of myself…”) to the group hug he gives in verse 15 to “Philologus, Julia, Nereus and his sister, and Olympas, and all the saints who are with them.”
Look at some of the phrases Paul uses in describing those he wishes the Romans to greet on his behalf (I am quoting the New Revised Standard Version Updated Edition, but I suspect just about any modern translation would do):
- My coworkers
- My beloved (used multiple times)
- Who has worked very hard for you
- My fellow Israelites who were in prison with me
- My beloved in the Lord
- Our coworker in Christ
- Who is approved in Christ
- Those workers in the Lord
- Who has worked hard in the Lord
- Chosen in the Lord
- A mother to me also
I would be disingenuous (or lying) to say I don’t like being praised. I think I would be especially fond of being praised by people whose lives left their marks on history for thousands of years (and show no signs of stopping) and are still upheld by the Church (note the capital “C”) as instruments of God’s eternal purposes, or Saints (note the capital “S”).
While I suspect I am not alone in my appreciation of such praise, the Christians on Paul’s list were unlikely to be living out their lives to end up on Paul’s “Top 10 List” or receive a plaque at a dinner given in their honor by the Roman Rotary Club. Instead, they faced persecution and death.
Church tradition has it that Phoebe, mentioned in verse 1, was likely entrusted to deliver Paul’s letter to Rome. We can assume this because he instructs them to “welcome her in the lord, as is fitting for the saints, and help her in whatever she may require from you, …” This was probably a risky assignment and not lightly given to just anyone.
Prisca (or Priscilla) and Aquila, fellow tentmakers with Paul and trusted companions referenced throughout the Book of Acts, put their lives at risk for him.  They are said by church tradition to have been martyred along with Roman Christians after the burning of the city in July AD 64 was blamed on them by the emperor Nero.
Andronicus and Junia, named in verse 7, spent time in prison with Paul because of their faith in Jesus, and some scholars think they may have been Greek Jews who were in Jerusalem at the time of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit was first given to the Disciples.
I have always been fascinated by the early history of the Church, and equally enthralled with the courage and steadfast faith it must take to lay down one’s life for the sake of the Gospel. There was a period in my life (before I was married and had my two sons) where I tried to get my hands on any book, news article, or documentary offering primary source information on modern-day martyrs.
In all honesty, I hope but am not sure I have the fortitude it takes to make such a sacrifice.
This Sunday, Rev. Amanda Golbek will be preaching from Matthew 28:16-20, a Scripture passage often referred to as The Great Commission, which Jesus gave to his disciples prior to his bodily ascension into Heaven.
Pastor Amanda will be talking about what it takes to instill a faith in others that has true sticking power. When Jesus sent out his disciples, he knew they would face all kinds of trials, hardships, and persecution. But he also knew he would be sending the Holy Spirit which, together with what he had taught them, would be enough for them to accomplish what he was telling them to do. That same power is still active today here at First Pres, in Chicagoland, the USA, and around the world!
We look forward to seeing you Sunday morning at 10 a.m. in the Sanctuary, and out front afterwards for Lemonade on the Lawn (weather permitting).
Grace and peace!
FPCE director of communications