A New Letter from Paul

Philemon 1:1-21 (NRSV)
Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus, and Timothy our brother

To Philemon our dear friend and co-worker, to Apphia our sister, to Archippus our fellow soldier, and to the church in your house:
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
When I remember you in my prayers, I always thank my God because I hear of your love for all the saints and your faith toward the Lord Jesus. I pray that the sharing of your faith may become effective when you perceive all the good that we may do for Christ. I have indeed received much joy and encouragement from your love, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you, my brother.
For this reason, though I am bold enough in Christ to command you to do your duty, 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. I am appealing to you for my child, Onesimus, whose father I have become during my imprisonment. Formerly he was useless to you, but now he is indeed useful both to you and to me. I am sending him, that is, my own heart, back to you. 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; but I preferred to do nothing without your consent, in order that your good deed might be voluntary and not something forced. Perhaps this is the reason he was separated from you for a while, so that you might have him back forever, 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.
So if you consider me your partner, welcome him as you would welcome me. If he has wronged you in any way, or owes you anything, charge that to my account.  I, Paul, am writing this with my own hand: I will repay it. I say nothing about your owing me even your own self.  Yes, brother, let me have this benefit from you in the Lord! Refresh my heart in Christ.  Confident of your obedience, I am writing to you, knowing that you will do even more than I say.
 Luke 14:25-33 (NRSV)
“The Cost of Discipleship”
Now large crowds were traveling with him; and he turned and said to them, “Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not first sit down and estimate the cost, to see whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it will begin to ridicule him, saying, ‘This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.’  Or what king, going out to wage war against another king, will not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to oppose the one who comes against him with twenty thousand?  If he cannot, then, while the other is still far away, he sends a delegation and asks for the terms of peace. So therefore, none of you can become my disciple if you do not give up all your possessions.
“A NEW LETTER FROM PAUL”
Robin E. Lostetter
Western Presbyterian Church
September 4, 2016 (Labor Day Weekend)
Scripture: Philemon 1:1-21, Luke 14: 25-33
Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus,
To the Saints at Western Presbyterian Church, and to those Children of God in your community:
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
When I remember you in my prayers, I always thank my God because I hear of your love for all the saints and your faith toward the Lord Jesus. I pray that the sharing of your faith may become effective when you perceive all the good that we may do for Christ. I have indeed received much joy and encouragement from your love, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you, my brothers and sisters.
For this reason, although I am bold enough in Christ to command you, 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. I am appealing to you for all the children of God, for whom I feel responsibility during my imprisonment.
Perhaps this is the reason I have been separated from you for a while, so that I might see your enslavement from a distance.  I want to have you back forever, no longer as  slaves but as beloved brothers and sisters.
So if you consider yourselves partners with Christ, welcome the Spirit’s guidance as you would welcome mine.  Any debts have been charged off your accounts; Christ has taken them all.  I, Paul, am writing this with my own hand: I confirm that he has paid it.
So do not live as slaves.  On this, your observance of Labor Day, look at your work.  Some of you work in balance with family and play, often seeing work as your calling.  And some are enslaved by circumstances to work in drudgery, patching together more than one job. But some of you are enslaved by ambition and you work for that which does not feed the soul.  Others are enslaved by an inner need to succeed to meet emotional or outside needs.
Have you not heard the words of Isaiah?  “Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? … Incline your ear, and come to me; listen, so that you may live.”  (55:2a,3a)
Jesus said, “Whoever comes to me and does not detach themselves from the things of this world, even from family cannot be my disciple.”  Before you can become my disciple, you must be able to count the cost: will you be able to share out of your poverty, not just out of your excess?  Will you be able to follow me, even when friends and family go their own way?  Will you be able to leave a high-paying job when it is sucking the life out of you or going against my teachings?  Will you be able to hear my words in the voting booth?  Are you able to leave the cell phone aside for Sabbath time?  Will you take a day, a Sabbath of days, a Sabbatical, to refresh your life with me, with those covenanted to you?  Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.”  Will you seek justice for yourself and other workers if there are unfair work practices?  Will you pay your workers a fair wage and care for the widow, the orphan, and resident alien in your towns?* Will you leave the edges of your fields and your vineyard for gleaning? Will you remember me, above your church building and your sacred idols?  “Whoever comes to me and does not detach themselves, from the things of this world, and even value me over life itself, cannot be my disciple.”
So, my friends, let me, your brother Paul, have this benefit from you in the Lord!  Refresh my heart in Christ.  Confident of your obedience, I am writing to you, knowing that you will do even more than I say.  I pray for you to enjoy the freedom that is yours, only when you resist slavery to all else but the love of Christ our Lord.
One thing more—prepare a guest room for me, for I am hoping through your prayers to be restored to you.
Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, sends greetings to you, and so do Mark, Aristarchus, Demas, and Luke, my fellow workers.
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.
———-
*Deuteronomy, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Zechariah, Malachi; various verses
© 2016   R.Lostetter
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