The key to interpreting the postcard to Philemon in the New Testament is the way Paul describes all the people mentioned — brother, sister, sister, beloved, co-laborer, fellow worker. Every single time, the descriptions are egalitarian in meaning. These are people who worked together as equals and partners. This despite their status — whether male or female, slave or free, Jew or Gentile. Bringing into expression the idea Paul declares in Galatians that in God's reign, these distinctions will not and do not exist.
Being co-workers in the mission makes all of these disciples saints. "Holy ones." Those inhabited by God. Scholar Ted Jennings draws out the implications of using this word: "To name these quite ordinary people 'saints' or holy ones is to say that each and together they ... are inhabited by the infinite. Their value is thus not calculable, but incalculable, infinite." Here is the ground of what in the modern world would become our ideas of inherent humanity dignity and our declaration that all people enjoy basic human rights.
So how should ancient Christians apply these ideas of radical equality in their lives and social situations? Well, the postcard to Philemon addresses that head on by discussing slavery. What does Paul really think about slavery? Especially if he calls slaves "holy ones," sharing in the glory and power of God, of incalculable worth and dignity, co-workers in the mission, beloved brothers and sisters.
I think you are starting to get the idea of what he thinks. In this postcard, his radical vision of social equality subverts slavery and the entire hierarchical, patriarchal system upon which it is built.
Evangelization is commonly understood as a process, program, a trajectory — levels and degrees to pass or advance. This makes evan-makes evangelization sound much like a popular board game or video game.
Evangelization can also be thought of as catechetical instruction or apologetics. The simplest way to say what evangelization means is to follow Pope Paul VI, whose "On Evangelization in the Modern World" has inspired so much recent thought and activity in the Church.
We can rephrase his words to say that evangelizing means bringing the Good News of Jesus into every human situation and seeking to convert individuals and society by the divine power of the Gospel. At its essence are the proclamation of salvation in Jesus and the response of a person in faith, which are both works of the Holy Spirit.
Evangelization must always be directly connected to the Lord Jesus Christ. There is no true evangelization if the name, the teaching, the life, the promises, the Kingdom and mystery of Jesus of Nazareth, the son of God, are not proclaimed.
This definition gives us a vision for evangelization: Evangelization is not a program; it is not about getting people to join a parish. It is to bring people into a relationship with Jesus, a deeper friendship.
To be effective evangelists, our Lord's life must flow through us to others. For this purpose, concepts like faith, hope, charity and holiness come to mind, but they are perhaps too vague or misunderstood to be useful for evangelizing. And even if they are understood, to make them the content of the proclamation is far much too rich for the unbaptized or the person who may need to hear about Christ almost as if for the first time. The brilliance and sweet savor of Jesus' name is the glory of evangelists.
Christianity: Endgame Lots of people are talking about endings, mostly brought on by the final episode of "Game of Thrones" and the "Avengers" film that wrapped up wrapped up the first phase of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Even if you haven't been watching, I'm sure some mild-mannered friend has passionately argued about whether the writers "got it right." People are talking.
But endings are important. My own Christian tradition takes significant lessons from the end of Jesus' life: sheathing the sword, accepting the consequences of truth-telling, offering forgiveness from a cross, and knowing that death does not have the last word over love.
In the early church, following in this martyrdom — living out belief even when it meant death — become one of the highest ways of living. As time went on, "daily martyrdom" became established theology: Our lives achieve their greatest heights when we give them away. This is echoed in many stories today.
But our own Endgame? In the Episcopal Church, we've taken up language popularized by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and, more recently, our presiding bishop, the Most Reverend Michael Curry: "Beloved Community."
Beloved Community is a place where all are valued, welcomed and loved. We see one another with the kind of vision God has: Everyone is a beloved neighbor, and we love them as we love ourselves.
We don't get there with dragonfire or quantum leaping. We get there with the same basic toolkit of empathy, care, vulnerability and faith that humanity has used for thousands of years. And it takes longer than three hours at a time. But faith tells me the endgame that matters, for my life and this world of ours, is the one where nobody is treated as an outsider, and I can work toward that every day.
What's your endgame?
Does changing a name erase history? The past is a deviant thing because it is as fluid as a river, which can be problematic if history and the past are indistinguishable.
I often wonder how Memorial Day lost its meaning, now a marker for summer and barbecue, not a time to gather in cemeteries to pay respect to those who died while on active military service. The stories we tell about ourselves, they feel true and permanent, like the skin we were born into. But what if you found out that a story you believe so strongly, something you and the people around you had staked so much of your lives on — what if you found out that that story was a lie? What would you do — believe the truth, or keep believing the lie?
Those words introduce a powerful new podcast titled "White Lies," a gripping narrative that reveals historical negationist ideology can exist in any town, to include Omaha, Nebraska. While Dodge Street is no longer named after the outwardly racist Dodge namesake, still one wonders how a school in 2019 bears the name of a superintendent whose segregation policies over 50 years ago still linger today. Names of statues, schools and monuments have meaning, for they shape who we are, what we believe, what we value.
The church and our education system are both implicated by an awakening process — when one becomes conscious, then a quest for truth leads to emancipation. For Christ, the spiritual awakening calls us to reconciliation, forgiveness and love. The original Memorial Day began when African Americans honored prisoners who were buried in a mass grave. I hope this Memorial Day weekend, we take time to remember our military as well as all who have been killed by racism and poverty.