“Rufus’ Mother and Mine.” These four simple words, personally speaking, have opened a new thinking process in me. It gave me an insight, at least a glimpse, to the heart of Apostle Paul. I have read all his epistles many times with greater attention to the beginnings and the endings. That begs the question, when did this habit start?
It was around 27 years ago, in 1986 when my pastor from Calcutta (missionary and close friend, the late Dr.Mark Buntain) was visiting us in Sharon, Ontario. Just before saying good-bye, I gave him the Bible, following my old Indian Custom for the pastor to read a portion of Scripture and pray. I did not have to ask; he understood what I meant. I remember it like yesterday. Guided by the Holy Spirit, he turned to 1 Corinthians and read 1:1-9. He emphasized verse 9 “God is faithful”. His advice, after reading the Word and prayer gave an indelible leading for our daughter Lalitha and future son-in-law Jeremy, both finishing their University degrees then and starting a career as teachers. Instead they became missionaries joining The Celeberant Singers, for 13 years. This experience did more than receiving divine directions by two young people.
It gave me a unique interest to read and study all the persons uniquely referred to in Paul’s writings. It was then that I first started to faintly feel the Apostle’s heart. I must admit there is a certain degree of nostalgia connected with this as well. My grandfather was converted from Hinduism to Christianity, at a town called Vijayawada, on the east coast of the Bay of Bengal. At his open water baptism, he changed his name from Partha Sarathy (Sanskrit for Chariot Driver) to Paul! For those interested in Hindu religion, part of their Scripture called Gita is the discourse between Arjun the King and Partha Sarathy, who was Lord Krishna incarnate in the form of a chariot driver. Their discourse was on Dharma, the righteous duty of man.
I do not normally come heavy on quoting Scripture verses, lest I be branded a Bible Thumper. In this instance, please read Romans 16:1-16. By the way, scholars confirm “the book of Romans has been called the greatest theological document ever written. In this letter Paul explains the Good News, the climactic revelation of God to the world through his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. Paul reflects on the human condition, on the meaning of our lives on earth, and on our hope for the world to come. He constantly moves us back to the fundamentals of God’s truth revealed in Christ, and he teaches us to deal with the problems, failures, and disputes that characterize life in this world”.
Here Paul was not referring to doctrinal conflicts and settling disputes. He was not prescribing how to deal with immorality in a multicultural congregation or a member taking another Believer to court. That was all dealt with. Here, at the end of it all, Paul opened his heart and ended proclaiming his genuine admiration, love and expressed his gut feelings for the flock.
Did you miss the odd and the obvious? Are you taken by surprise just looking at the list of names at the end of Romans 16, as I was? Did you notice the number of women mentioned there; how about that for a Mother’s Day Sermon? Paul got a lot of rap, some branding him a male chauvinist; others calling him rude and unkind to women. In my opinion, it is the opposite. In fact, he was ahead of his time in praising them. Let me correct myself. Jesus and his religion is the greatest emancipator of women in the world. Even the Old Law did not fully recognize their rights. Some treated them as chattel. The status that Jesus brought about did not end up like an unfinished symphony. Paul, inspired by Jesus, picked up the challenge and advanced it further.
Did you notice who headed the list? Phoebe, who was a Deaconess of the Church in the port city of Cenchrea! KJV calls her a servant (servant of Jesus Christ) or minister of the church. Paul greeted 27 Roman Christians, of which 10 were women, who played an extremely important role in the early church. Again, of the 27, Paul commends her worthy of hospitality and care. It is commonly accepted that she carried this epistle in her baggage. It is a gentle joke among scholars that Phoebe carried the great Reformation in her bag. Of course, they are referring to the verse that the “just shall live by faith” (Romans 1:17), which later became Martin Luther’s main thrust towards Reformation. Just to provoke some wild imagination, suppose she lost her baggage on the ship to Rome?
Next on the list is an interesting couple by name Aquila and Priscilla. They were business people. Today we label them as lay people. I would call them the Church builders. Paul was their guest and had worked along with them. The church was actually in their home. Look at their ministry as recorded in Acts 18:24-26. Apollos was eloquent and mighty in the Scriptures; spake and taught diligently the things of the Lord, though knowing only the Baptism of John. “When he began to speak boldly at the synagogue, Aquila and Priscilla took him home and expounded unto him the way of God more perfectly”. Later on he mightily convinced the Jews by the Scriptures that Jesus was Christ.
Yes, it is a rare gift to discern people like this couple and others like them and grant them the recognition they deserve. Paul did it. Here is a practical example in the Scripture what is theoretically called the “perfecting of the Saints”.
What about Rufus’ mother? Please forgive me I have exceeded my self imposed 1000 word limit and will continue on Rufus’ Mother and mine as part 2.
God bless, Danny Paul