Let’s relax on the Sabbath Saturday, toying with the last half of chapter 4 and its recitals of people, a lot like Romans 16. It feels a lot like ‘church bingo’, the game of finding mutual acquaintances in 2 or 3 degrees of separation rather than the secular 6. It might feel like name-dropping if we knew more.
Tychicus is carrying the letter, and entrusted with the oral gossip. Onesimus is coming along – remember the name from Philemon, the escaped slave? What do you imagine is the story between one letter and the other?
Aristarchus, Mark cousin of Barnabas, and Jesus called Justus are mentioned as ‘our’ allies with roots in circumcised communities, but not demanding such observances. It reminds me of political partisanship, lobbying and building networks in advocacy.
Imagine Epaphrus, a local from the Lycos valley, credited earlier in the letter with founding the church communities in Colossae and in nearby Hieropolis and Laodicea. The letter is to be read aloud to them – and their letters shared in turn with Colossae. The UCC does keep up the habit of such reporting!
We shouldn’t close without confirming that any current translation will clarify that Nympha is a woman sponsoring a church community, not unlike the names of Lydia and other women who ran households more like what we’d call ‘small businesses’ and were later airbrushed out of the picture by copyists who could not believe that a woman could matter.
7 Tychicus will tell you all the news about me; he is a beloved brother, a faithful minister, and a fellow-servant in the Lord.
8I have sent him to you for this very purpose, so that you may know how we are and that he may encourage your hearts;
9he is coming with Onesimus, the faithful and beloved brother, who is one of you. They will tell you about everything here.
10 Aristarchus my fellow-prisoner greets you, as does Mark the cousin of Barnabas, concerning whom you have received instructions— if he comes to you, welcome him.
11And Jesus who is called Justus greets you. These are the only ones of the circumcision among my co-workers for the kingdom of God, and they have been a comfort to me.
12Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ Jesus, greets you. He is always wrestling in his prayers on your behalf, so that you may stand mature and fully assured in everything that God wills.
13For I testify for him that he has worked hard for you and for those in Laodicea and in Hierapolis .
14Luke, the beloved physician, and Demas greet you.
15Give my greetings to the brothers and sisters in Laodicea, and to Nympha and the church in her house.
16And when this letter has been read among you, have it read also in the church of the Laodiceans; and see that you read also the letter from Laodicea.
17And say to Archippus, ‘See that you complete the task that you have received in the Lord.’
18 I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand. Remember my chains . Grace be with you.*