Summary: How do you overcome the loneliness of our existential human condition? In Christ there is no Lone Ranger-no Ranger at all. We are all connected, and work much better in teams
11 Jesus, who is called Justus, also sends greetings. These are the only Jews among my co-workers for the kingdom of God, and they have proved a comfort to me. 12 Epaphras, who is one of you and a servant of Christ Jesus, sends greetings. He is always wrestling in prayer for you, that you may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured. 13 I vouch for him that he is working hard for you and for those at Laodicea and Hierapolis. 14 Our dear friend Luke, the doctor, and Demas send greetings. 15 Give my greetings to the brothers and sisters at Laodicea, and to Nympha and the church in her house.
16 After this letter has been read to you, see that it is also read in the church of the Laodiceans and that you in turn read the letter from Laodicea.
17 Tell Archippus: “See to it that you complete the ministry you have received in the Lord.”
18 I, Paul, write this greeting in my own hand. Remember my chains. Grace be with you.
Please imagine, for a moment, the loneliest circumstance. Do you immediately think of being stranded on an island, hundreds of miles from nowhere? Or might you think of the dank dark drudgery of prison? I recently visited Alcatraz Island with my daughter. It was an infamous prison partly because a number of infamous prisoners were held there, and partly because it was such an incomparable location. The island sits in the center of the San Francisco Bay, with the Godlen Gate Bridge to one side, the City on the other, Sausalito harbour in full view, and the Bay Bridge just opposite. The tour guide said when conditions are just right you could hear people enjoying parties across the bay in The City, in Fisherman’s Wharf or Ghiradelli Square. The prisoners were in one of the most beautiful locales in the world, and they were completely cut off from any contact with the civilization there.
Psychologists suggest there are many kinds of loneliness. I would imagine that the aloneness of prison may be the greatest form of loneliness, where you lose contact with your significant friends, you’re surrounded by guards, people outside your usual social group, you are in a culture not your own, Paul was an academic, an intellectual, but he’s surrounded by soldiers. and he has experienced the trauma of being beaten and shiprecked, and, therefore, knew the loneliness of a person who has had experiences to which others cannot relate. And, Paul was constantly aware of his own mortality, knowing what is sometimes called cosmic loneliness. Paul was in prison; he should have felt lonely; but he was so connected.
Paul mentions here several people we know from other books in the Bible, Luke, who wrote the Gospel of Luke, and Mark, mentioned earlier. He also mentions several that, if it weren’t for these final greetings in Paul’s letters, they would have been left out of the Bible. Paul was a networker. He knew the value of working together with likeminded friends. He also understood the value of neighbors. Colossea and Laodicea were neighbor cities, and Paul, apparently, wrote a letter to the Laodiceans as well-unfortunately we do not have that letter. How do you overcome the loneliness of our existential human condition? In Christ there is no Lone Ranger-no Ranger at all. We are all connected, and work much better in teams. We serve the LORD better when we can coordinate our efforts with people who share our faith and our concerns and our love for God. The Body of Christ is made up of many members. A branch that is cut off from the Vine withers and dies. We must be connected to bear fruit.
Paul’s final exhortation “remember my chains” strikes a cord of pity in the heart. We must all remember those who are suffering for their faith throughout the world. Only in this way we honor our Lord, who suffered and was bound, and crucified, but he was not left alone. He rose from the dead. The Father raised him. The Spirit gave him renewed life. Angels announced his absense from the grave, and his Disciples greeted him and ate with him when he appeared. Even after death, Jesus was fully connected to his people, and they were, and are, connected with Him.
Prayer for Today
Forgive me for the times I have wished to be separate from your Body-your people. Teach me to work with your people, obedient to you, all of us with the blood of your covenant pulsing thorugh our veins. Let your Spirit breathe into us unity and fruitfulness that can come only from you. Redeem us from the loneliness of our fallen humanity. Let us as a community reflect your goodness, your truth, your character, your light, your goodness, and your peace.
Father, as your Son, Jesus, prayed on the night he was betrayed, make us one.
In Jesus’ name we pray