Over the past couple of weeks, some of us have been meeting to talk about some of the smallest books of the Bible.  This past week, we gathered to talk about Philemon, a little book of 25 verses that almost feels like you’re reading someone’s personal mail until you realize that starting in verse 4, Paul switches to second person plural pronouns indicating that the message is for everyone.  (My high school Spanish teacher explained the second person plural as “all ya’ll.”) We had a wonderful time, marveling at Paul’s rhetorical mastery, while sussing out messages of second chances and forgiveness, free will and courage. In his notes on Philemon, John Wesley wrote, “This single epistle infinitely transcends all the wisdom of the world.  And it gives us a specimen of how Christians ought to treat secular affairs from higher principles.”

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I heard echoes of Wesley’s statement as we talked about heaven in the Men’s Grow Group on Thursday morning.  The question was asked: how do our expectations of heaven affect our lives today? (I may have the words wrong, but that’s the gist of it.)   If we really hope for heaven, it seems our priorities and values should reflect that. Our to-do lists should be heaven oriented.

For Philemon, a heaven oriented to-do list might involve emancipating a slave.  In his culture that would take great courage. Sadly, we have no real indication of what Philemon chose to do.  There was a bishop in Ephesus named Onesimus in the second century, but the time span would make it highly improbable that the bishop of Ephesus and the Onesimus of Paul’s day were one and the same.  Our hope is that Philemon did the right thing, even if it was the hardest thing.

This Tuesday night, we will talk about Jude, and no, it is not related to the Beatles song

Early this spring, I was invited to apply for the Royce and Jane Reynolds Program in Church Leadership.  The application explains the purpose as “The Royce and Jane Reynolds Program in Church Leadership provides the opportunity for 24 select clergy leaders [from across the southeast] to complete a yearlong intensive program in leadership development. The Reynolds program is a joint venture between the United Methodist Foundation of Western North Carolina, Inc. and the Center for Creative Leadership, an international nonprofit educational institution. Created out of a deep concern for the development of effective pastoral leaders for Christ’s Church, the goal of the program is to assist strong pastors in becoming congregational leaders who develop a clear vision for the Church. Participants will be invited into a study of their leadership gifts and challenges and the impact of those gifts and challenges on the creation of congregational vision, its articulation and its fulfillment.”

I was accepted and will begin the program in August.  It will require me to be away for 4 sessions over the next year, to reflect and to learn and to implement.  I am excited, nervous and honored, and ask for your prayers.

The program is at no cost to the church.  Royce and Jane Reynolds are so committed to the future of the church that they have chosen to underwrite the entire cost for 24 people themselves.  Commitment to the future of the church. It’s a holy and beautiful thing.


As God calls us, may we live as people committed to God’s church!