S (Scripture): Romans 16:1 I’m introducing our sister Phoebe to you, who is a servant of the church in Cenchreae. 2 Welcome her in the Lord in a way that is worthy of God’s people, and give her whatever she needs from you, because she herself has been a sponsor of many people, myself included.
3 Say hello to Prisca and Aquila, my coworkers in Christ Jesus, 4 who risked their own necks for my life. I’m not the only one who thanks God for them, but all the churches of the Gentiles do the same. 5 Also say hello to the church that meets in their house. Say hello to Epaenetus, my dear friend, who was the first convert in Asia for Christ. 6 Say hello to Mary, who has worked very hard for you. 7 Say hello to Andronicus and Junia, my relatives and my fellow prisoners. They are prominent among the apostles, and they were in Christ before me.
O (Observation): Paul does a most wonderful and honorable thing: he mentions the women who have been faithful to Christ and with whom he has worked alongside. Why honorable? This should be expected, yes? Of course these women mentioned should be included, but for Paul to do this in the first century is a bit scandalous.
After all, women were NOT seen as equals amongst the Jews. Women had little rights and certainly no claim to positions of authority, especially in relation to matters of religion.
Yet, here they are. These women mentioned by Paul are working tremendously hard in order to share the Gospel with those who would receive it.
A (Application): Yet another example given to us about God doing “a new thing” in Scripture, in the early formation of the Church.
These leaders working with Paul remind us that the obstacles before us in the Church are typically self-made. We put up parameters around who can lead / do certain aspects of organized religion. Quite often we give little to no regard for the individual’s value.
We have done much harm from WITHIN the Church, as we have denied certain people from being leaders in the church based on their ethnicity, race, language of origin, sexual orientation, gender identity, and more.
Thankfully, we are making strides towards being more just about these things from within the modern Church. We are seeing more diversity amongst our leaders, but our congregations seem less and less willing to extend calls to those who are not “white, straight, English-speaking” pastors.
But hope abounds. Congregations throughout the ELCA (in which I serve) are wrestling more and more with these issues and our hope rests in God’s abundant and reckless grace. Our denomination repents of these harmful actions in the present and in the past.
God will continue to send the Spirit to guide us into the way of peace. And we will hope to write about these leaders on social media, just as Paul wrote about his experiences to the churches in Rome.
P (Prayer): Lord, we are all made in your image and we are all known – individually – by you. Guide us. Amen.