Each Friday of our NEW Movement series, we will send you an email with some brief reflection on what you’ve been reading that week.
As a reminder, most weeks will require you to read one chapter a day from Monday-Saturday. Sunday is your day off from reading, or an opportunity to catch up on what you’ve missed.
Although we didn’t have any reading assignments this week, we will read the entire book of Philemon in worship this Sunday. Fortunately, Philemon is only one chapter long!
Philemon is one of the epistles, or letters; specifically, it is a letter from the apostle Paul to a Christian named Philemon, who leads a church in his home. Most churches met in homes during the 50s and 60s AD, during which time this letter would have been written.
Reading someone else’s mail is always difficult. In this letter, it feels very much as though we are coming in on the middle of a conversation. Paul does not explain the situation in detail, but we can piece together some of the critical details. Philemon has a runaway slave, named Onesimus (whose name, translated, means “useful”). Onesimus has converted to Christianity through meeting Paul. Paul himself is in prison, and Onesimus has been caring for him during this imprisonment. Now Paul is sending Onesimus back to Philemon, likely carrying this letter.
The importance of this return journey cannot be overstated. Without being reconciled to Philemon, Onesimus would live the rest of his life as a fugitive; but returning to Philemon could mean returning to a life of slavery, or even to his own execution. Hence, Paul writes to persuade Philemon to mercy, and perhaps to emancipation as well. While the early church did not officially condemn slavery, letters like this one reveal to us that slavery is not in God’s design for humanity.
September 12-19 - Mark 1-5
We begin our reading schedule with the Gospel of Mark (notice that we are not beginning with the first book of the New Testament). Mark was the the first Gospel, the first written account of the life of Jesus. The church has historically attributed this Gospel to John Mark, a companion of Peter and Paul. Most likely, Mark was written in the mid 60s AD. Many believe the deaths of Peter and Paul precipitated the need to write down the stories these great apostles spent their lives proclaiming.
The Gospel of Mark does not include a birth story; it jumps right into the life of Jesus with the baptism by John. But from the first verse, it is clear that this is the gospel (meaning “good news”) about Jesus Christ, the Son of God. The rest of the book will explain just what that first verse entails.
Enjoy your reading!