S (Scripture): Romans 16:1 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, who work with me in Christ Jesus, 4 and 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 among you. 7 Greet Andronicus and Junia, my relatives[d] who were in prison with me; they are prominent among the apostles, and they were in Christ before I was.
O (Observation): One of the most underrated and unspoken benefits to Paul was the work of women in the Church throughout Paul’s ministry. We hear plenty about the male disciples throughout his writings, but thankfully we hear Paul greeting his fellow female compatriots in the personal greetings.
Phoebe is one; she is a “deacon.” Prisca may actually be more of a “Priscilla.” A Mary is mentioned. And Junia may actually be “Julia.” There are others, but some of these ancient names may be difficult for us to discern a gender.
The point is that in a time when females were not considered strong or helpful, Paul relies on the Spirit to work through males and females alike. Gender is not the main identity marker, rather, identity in Christ is the key.
A (Application): As a pastor in the ELCA, I’m proud to identify with a denomination that considers identity in Christ as the foremost attribute to one’s call. Male, female, transgender, questioning…one in Christ, child of God.
Through whom can God work? Anyone.
The power of the Spirit in one’s call is most significant. That call will need to be discerned throughout one’s life, not because of one’s gender or social status, but because the call to serve God takes many forms.
The official roster of the ELCA now has two major categories: Ministers of Word and Sacrament (“pastors”) and Ministers of Word and Service (“deacons”). Paul and his compatriots would likely fit into one of these two rosters.
Ministers of Word and Sacrament today serve mainly as pastors in congregations, but also as chaplains, professors, and in other specialized ministries. Ministers of Word and Service also serve in congregations as musicians and faith formation leaders; they may serve as lawyers, advocates, community organizers and in so many other roles.
The call is the central aspect.
How and where is God giving you grace to serve the Kingdom?
P (Prayer): Lord, help us to heed your call. Amen.