People Matter

People Matter: Colossians 5.
Acts 19:21- 29, 35 – 20: 4 and 15:36-41;  Colossians 4:2 – 18
People matter. They always do regardless of the organisation or business. People make things work. People make the difference in life. People must come first – their well-being and their gifting. Without healthy maturity and invigorated gifts the community will flounder.
One cannot read Paul’s letters and not get that people matter. This final chapter in this letter to the Colossian Christians is all about people. Ten names are mentioned and some instructions for prayer. These apparently simple greetings carry a rich story. These ten names tell the personal story, the partnerships and the different contributions that form part of the fabric of the Church. Without them there is no Church. It is not unlike our church – your church. The back story of this church is about the faithful lives of people.
This farewell section begins with an instruction to devote oneself to prayer, being alert and thankful. [4:2] The focus of prayer is quite clear. They are to pray for their ministers, who are praying for them. They are to pray that God will open doors, because the Gospel cannot grow without God acting first.  The whole purpose of the church’s work is to make clear what God is doing in the life, teaching, death and resurrection of Jesus the Christ. If this is the reason for the church’s existence then it follows they the believer must work at being thoughtful, gracious and ready to explain their faith. [4:2-6] 
Let us hear these words of Paul again.
Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with thanksgiving. At the same time pray for us as well that God will open to us a door for the word, that we may declare the mystery of Christ, for which I am in prison, so that I may reveal it clearly, as I should. Conduct yourselves wisely toward outsiders, making the most of the time.  6 Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer everyone. [4: 2-6] 
In this final instruction and encouragement to these young Christians at Colossae Paul reminds us of the important truths of prayer, dependence upon God, the partnership we have with each other and God and the responsibility to make it happen. We must not forget that evangelism is to Church growth as oxygen is to fire. Without oxygen the fire dies and without evangelism the Church dies.
Let the membership of Leighmoor reflect on the teaching of this letter. 
How much time do we give to prayer?
Do we pray that others might come into a loving and transforming relationship with Christ Jesus?
(Or, do we pray more for our own needs?  Where lies the emphasis in our prayers? )
Do we think about making the Christian message clear?
Is our church life more about what we can get than what we can give?
I know I fail on these points. I know that without a focus on what we should be doing we will simply go backwards. Remember our mission statement that we have agreed to in council and in our silence. 
Helping People into a Living Relationship with Jesus Christ.
How much time do we give to preparing ourselves for our conversations with others. Let us ponder this for a moment. Someone has raised in your group or family or friends – some point about Christianity. Do you remain silent? Or do you say I don’t know. Or do you agree with their cynical analysis of the church. What do you say?  You might not be able to respond the first time, but have you ever gone away and reflected on that conversation and thought about how you would respond more positively. Reflect upon those conversations and questions and begin to develop some thoughtful responses. When people tell me how bad the church is I often agree with them.  Often the best way to address these questions is to make an ‘I statement’; i.e. this is what you believe.  My usual response runs like this.  “I know the church and I can tell you how messy it is, but I’m in it because the message and messenger is so great I couldn’t live without the meaningfulness and Christ in my life.”
The writings of Paul have presented some significant metaphors for the Church and not least the notion of the Church being like a human body, where each part works together to make the whole and each part is as important as the other. 1 Corinthians 12 provides us with this metaphor. In these final sentences of the Colossian letter ten people are mentioned witnessing to the network of relationships that go to make up the Church and God’s mission.
Tychicus is a companion of Paul who is entrusted with delivering the letter to the Ephesians. [Eph 6:21]  He is described as a beloved brother and a faithful minister of Christ’s. But most interesting is that Tychicus is entrusted with the task of providing personal news about Paul. To be someone’s ambassador is always a privilege and it speaks of an intimate relationship.
Onesimus, the runaway slave, is a member of the congregation at Colossae! We can read all about Onesimus in Paul’s letter to Philemon the slave owner of Onesimus. Paul refers to Onesimus as a faithful and beloved brother, who is one of you, not as a slave [4:9]. That speaks volumes about Paul’s theology and God’s grace.
The three Jewish men are mentioned, Aristarchus, Mark (the writer of the Gospel according to Mark) and Jesus Justus.  Aristarchus shared the dangers and the deprivations of being a co-worker with Paul.  In Ephesus an angry mob attacked Paul, Aristarchus and Gaius. [Acts 19:29]. When Paul was imprisoned and taken to Rome Aristarchus went as his personal servant [Acts 29:2]. Aristarchus was a loyal friend and companion to Paul and suffered with Paul.
The next man of Jewish origin is Mark. Mark is the friend of the disciple Peter and it is believed Mark learnt all about Jesus from Peter. Mark is also believed to be the young man who ran away from the Garden of Gethsemane. So Mark had a personal acquaintance with Jesus. But there is more. We read Acts 13 and 15 that Mark had let down Paul and Barnabus. Later Barnabus was happy to take Mark with them on the Second Missionary journey, but Paul refused believing Mark to be unreliable. But now Mark is with Paul.  Clearly Paul and Mark had been reconciled.  We also learn that Paul sees Mark as a useful member of the team [2 Tim 4:11; Philem 24]. This is what the Gospel is about – forgiveness and reconciliation.
We know nothing about Jesus Justus but his name and that he is a companion and team member.  It would have been a comfort to Paul to have three Jewish Christians with him in Rome, as the Roman Jews were very querulous about Paul. If Paul had only had Gentile Christians he might have found it harder to speak to the Jews in Rome.
Epaphras, was the minister of the Colossae church and also the church in Laodicea and Hierapolis. He prayed and worked hard for the churches he served [1:7,8]
Luke was with Paul to the end we read in 2 Timothy 4:11. He is the beloved physician. Did he dedicate his life to attending to Paul’s medical condition? [2 Cor 12: 7] Luke wrote an account of the Gospel and the Acts of the Apostles – two books we have in the NT.
Demas is mentioned without comment. He is mentioned in 2 Timothy 4:10 as having left the team.
Nymphas heads the house-church in Laodicea. This reminds us that the church first met in homes and that women played a lead role in the structure of the church.
Finally Archippus is mentioned and a message of encouragement to complete the task he has received from the Lord.
We cannot escape the importance of the diversity of Paul’s team and Paul’s pastoral care for all people. Paul’s pastoral concern is expressed through affirmation, encouragement, warning and instruction. The Pastoral care is based on a clear and insightful theology of Christ Jesus. These ten persons tell us that ministry is a combined effort; ministry is working together and listening to God the Holy Spirit; and that ministry should be done with a high measure of thoughtfulness.
I hope this little excursion into the life of a minster, Paul and his team, has been helpful. May we with thoughtfulness proceed in our faith journey to witness to the wonderful love of God in Christ Jesus for the world.
Peter C Whitaker, Leighmoor UC:  28/08/2016