Year C – Sixteenth Sunday in Pentecost – Philemon 1-12

Philemon 1-21 NRSV

1 Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus, and Timothy our brother,

To Philemon our dear friend and co-worker, 2 to Apphia our sister, to Archippus our fellow soldier, and to the church in your house:

3 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

4 When I remember you in my prayers, I always thank my God 5 because I hear of your love for all the saints and your faith toward the Lord Jesus. 6 I pray that the sharing of your faith may become effective when you perceive all the good that we may do for Christ. 7 I have indeed received much joy and encouragement from your love, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you, my brother.

8 For this reason, though I am bold enough in Christ to command you to do your duty, 9 yet I would rather appeal to you on the basis of love—and I, Paul, do this as an old man, and now also as a prisoner of Christ Jesus. 10 I am appealing to you for my child, Onesimus, whose father I have become during my imprisonment. 11 Formerly he was useless to you, but now he is indeed useful both to you and to me. 12 I am sending him, that is, my own heart, back to you. 13 I wanted to keep him with me, so that he might be of service to me in your place during my imprisonment for the gospel; 14 but I preferred to do nothing without your consent, in order that your good deed might be voluntary and not something forced.15 Perhaps this is the reason he was separated from you for a while, so that you might have him back forever, 16 no longer as a slave but more than a slave, a beloved brother—especially to me but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord.

17 So if you consider me your partner, welcome him as you would welcome me. 18 If he has wronged you in any way, or owes you anything, charge that to my account. 19 I, Paul, am writing this with my own hand: I will repay it. I say nothing about your owing me even your own self. 20 Yes, brother, let me have this benefit from you in the Lord! Refresh my heart in Christ. 21 Confident of your obedience, I am writing to you, knowing that you will do even more than I say.

Summary – Paul wrote a letter to a Christian man named Philemon. Philemon had a slave named Onesimus (which means “useful”) who had stolen money from Philemon and then ran away. In God’s providence, Onesimus ends up meeting Paul who was in prison in Rome (v.10). Under Paul, Onesimus becomes a Christian. Paul attempts to reconcile the broken relationship between Onesimus and Philemon, so he writes this letter to Philemon appealing to him to accept Onesimus back, not just as a slave, but as a brother in the Lord (v.16). Now that Onesimus is a Christian he is more “useful” than he was before, and so it would benefit Philemon to accept him back (v.11). Paul also appeals to Philemon to charge the debt that Onesimus owes Philemon to Paul’s account (v. 18-19). Paul sent this letter to Philemon by the hand of Onesimus. Tradition tells us that Onesimus later became a bishop in the Church, proving himself to be more “useful” than anyone had expected.

Insight – The key theme of this letter, is reconciliation – that is, making peace between two parties who were hostile toward each other. Undoubtedly there was tension and strife between Philemon and Onesimus since Onesimus had stolen from Philemon. But Paul, reflecting on the work of the Lord Jesus, seeks to bring peace and reconciliation to a broken relationship. We were once hostile toward God, and at enmity with him, and had accumulated a massive amount of debt of sin, that we could never repay. But Jesus, on the cross, charges our debt to His account, and makes peace between us and the Father, thus reconciling us forever (v. 15). Paul seeks to do the same for Philemon and Onesimus.  This is a beautiful picture of God’s grace in freely justifying sinners.

Catechism – What does Onesimus mean?  Onesimus means “useful.”

Discussion – Discuss “reconciliation”, and apply that to the Christian’s relationship with God. Discuss ways to seek reconciliation with others. Discuss charging the debt to another’s account.

Prayer – Dear Lord God, we praise you for reconciling us to yourself, through the cross of the Christ, and canceling the debt that we owed you. Please grant us grace to be useful to you and others in this life, as we live debt free lives of gratitude. In Jesus name, Amen.

 Submitted by Michael J. Shover

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Year B – Trinity 7 – 1 Samuel 17:32-49

1 Samuel 17:32-49:  David said to Saul, “Let no one’s heart fail because of him; your servant will go and fight with this Philistine.” 33 Saul said to David, “You are not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him; for you are just a boy, and he has been a warrior from his youth.” 34 But David said to Saul, “Your servant used to keep sheep for his father; and whenever a lion or a bear came, and took a lamb from the flock, 35 I went after it and struck it down, rescuing the lamb from its mouth; and if it turned against me, I would catch it by the jaw, strike it down, and kill it. 36 Your servant has killed both lions and bears; and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be like one of them, since he has defied the armies of the living God.” 37 David said, “The Lord, who saved me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, will save me from the hand of this Philistine.” So Saul said to David, “Go, and may the Lord be with you!”

38 Saul clothed David with his armor; he put a bronze helmet on his head and clothed him with a coat of mail. 39 David strapped Saul’s sword over the armor, and he tried in vain to walk, for he was not used to them. Then David said to Saul, “I cannot walk with these; for I am not used to them.” So David removed them. 40 Then he took his staff in his hand, and chose five smooth stones from the wadi, and put them in his shepherd’s bag, in the pouch; his sling was in his hand, and he drew near to the Philistine.

41 The Philistine came on and drew near to David, with his shield-bearer in front of him. 42 When the Philistine looked and saw David, he disdained him, for he was only a youth, ruddy and handsome in appearance. 43 The Philistine said to David, “Am I a dog, that you come to me with sticks?” And the Philistine cursed David by his gods. 44 The Philistine said to David, “Come to me, and I will give your flesh to the birds of the air and to the wild animals of the field.” 45 But David said to the Philistine, “You come to me with sword and spear and javelin; but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. 46 This very day the Lord will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you down and cut off your head; and I will give the dead bodies of the Philistine army this very day to the birds of the air and to the wild animals of the earth, so that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, 47 and that all this assembly may know that the Lord does not save by sword and spear; for the battle is the Lord’s and he will give you into our hand.” 48 When the Philistine drew nearer to meet David, David ran quickly toward the battle line to meet the Philistine. 49 David put his hand in his bag, took out a stone, slung it, and struck the Philistine on his forehead; the stone sank into his forehead, and he fell face down on the ground. (NRSV)

 

Summary:  This familiar scene between David and Goliath has become an iconic showdown for all those underdogs pitted against an invincible foe.  But David is not the lone hero of this story (nor would he let himself be); Instead, it was for the Lord’s honor and His glory that David fought (vv45,46).  Probably the age of an older teen at the time, David was nevertheless behaving as the noble and true leader for God’s people—though it would still be years before he was publically recognized as the king.

 

Insight:  Can you image that your parents were once teenagers?  It may be hard to believe, but all of us adults were at one time in your, or in your older siblings, shoes.  Being a young adult is not quite like being an adult, but it certainly feels like you’re not kid anymore.  We’ve been there and so was David.  Despite his youth, he demonstrated a remarkable level of spiritual maturity and wisdom.  His youthful drive and focus was one of humble servanthood and properly placed zeal.  Something we adults, and future adults alike, do well to learn from.

 

Child Catechism:  Why would David fight Goliath?  Because he had defiled the armies of the living God.

Discussion:  Parents, what teenage challenges did you face and overcome with God’s help?  Children (and youth adults), what Goliath-size challenges are your facing in your youth?

 

Father we remember your steadfast love and devotion to your people

In all stages of our life, protector us and stand with us

Our battles are your battles

In the power of your Spirit and the name of the King, Jesus the Christ. Amen.

 

Contributed by M. West

Year B – Easter 2 – Psalm 133

1 How very good and pleasant it is when kindred live together in unity! 2 It is like the precious oil on the head, running down upon the beard, on the beard of Aaron, running down over the collar of his robes. 3   It is like the dew of Hermon, which falls on the mountains of Zion.  For there the Lord ordained his blessing, life forevermore.

Summary:  Whether working or playing together, both can be rewarding experiences when everything goes well–and I’m sure you can think of times when it hasn’t.  More often then not, our worst fights are with those closest to us.  Nevertheless, it is a beautiful thing when we live in peace and harmony.  This is what David’s Psalm pictures.  The first image he uses is that of the anointing oil flowing down Aaron’s body, setting him wholly apart part for his unique task as high priest (Ex 29:7; Lev 8:12).  The second speaks of the life giving dew upon Mount Hermon, which is the mountains only source of water for vegetation.  God is the one who has set apart and blessed this unity; so that it may provide life and refreshment to a barren world.

Insight:  God has set us apart, in Christ and as Christ’s body, the royal priesthood (1 Peter 2:9-10).  The unity that comes with being identified with Christ can been heard in Paul’s repetition of ‘one’ in Ephesians 4:  There is one body, one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one God.  Equally as powerful is Paul’s appeal that we must live according to–that is in unity with–our own anointing that once ran down our heads.  Do to this, we must live in conformity to all those mentioned above.  This is the resurrected life even now, a great blessing indeed.

Child Catechism:  What is unity compared with?  The anointing oil which covered Aaron and the refreshing dew covering Mount Hermon.

Discussion:  [ref.  Galatins 5:16-26]  What are some of the ways disunity comes about?  How does that compare with the fruits of the Spirit?  What does being led by the unity of Spirit look like?

Father,

So often, we live in conflict within ourselves and with others

filled with bitterness and hatred, with no end to the fight

Bless us with that resurrected life, in peace and with unity

which can only come from you

So that together, with our fellow man and with you

we may life in this good and pleasing unity

Lead by Your Spirit and it is in Christ’s Name we pray. Amen.

Contributed by M. West