Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Your Origin Is a Point from Which to Rise -- just don't shake the family tree too hard

My family tree isn’t one you go shakin’, if you know what I mean, and that’s assuming that you are assuming that my family tree has branches. Regardless, you just don’t know what nuts will fall or what kind of nut may hit you on the way down. While I do have a semblance of a family tree mapped out on both sides of my family, there was a family tree that intrigued me much more when I was growing up – Greek mythology. I know! Totally bizarre, isn’t it?

When I was young, I had very little interest in reading mainly because nothing caught my attention long enough for me to sit down and even attempt to focus. But one day in the library at school, I stumbled upon a Greek mythology book. I loved it. It stirred my imagination, and the pictures were so vivid. I’d like to tell you about one of these mythological figures. Her name is Phoebe. Hang with me! I promise we’ll get there.

Phoebe wasn’t a well-known goddess, but she was a “Titan goddess” and the “mother of Asteria and Leto, among other children.” “Phoebe, the goddess of intellect, was married to Koios.” She was the grandmother of Artemis and Apollo – those names may be more familiar. Some have believed she was the “goddess of the moon,” but Artemis was the moon god. (1) Phoebe’s name actually meant “bright” which some may say relates to her intellect, and others say due to being connected to the moon god.

I know this has to seem out of left field, but I promise you there is a point to my digging into the name of Phoebe. You see, there was a Phoebe in the Bible, and there are only two verses written about her. I wondered if someone was given an opportunity to write two verses about me what would it say about my life? Paul minces no words.

Knowing she was a convert, I wanted to know possible connections to her name and its origin. It is very common for children who are adopted to want to know about their origins. Origins give you something from which to rise, and for some, something from which to overcome. You cannot change your origins. It is part of who you are, but it does not have to define your future. Phoebe, in the Bible, discovered just this.

The first thing I noticed in Romans 16:1-2 about Phoebe is that Paul is giving her a letter of recommendation. Phoebe is not only a convert (a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ), but she is a servant. She did not sit on her laurels and become a fat, lazy, baby Christian. In my daughter’s devotional, it said Phoebe was a deacon/deaconess. This piqued my interest, so I did more digging. Diakonon = SERVANT in this scripture. “It has been transliterated into English as a deacon or deaconess.”(2) You know what this tells me? It tells me she became educated in the Word of God and in her faith. If she did hold the position of deaconess, then she applied the Word to her life and lived it through ministry and service. I have to tell you, I really like this chic.

Phoebe was a giver, a provider, a benefactor. One may even surmise she was wealthy and maybe even a business woman. Think about it – she hung out with Priscilla and Aquila. She was traveling without a documented spouse. Traveling involved more than going to or and getting a ticket. Traveling was grueling and tiresome. It was physical, and yet, Phoebe did it.

Unlike other converts in her time, Phoebe kept her Greek name. She did not change it to a Christian name. There is something to be said about knowing who you are, knowing where you came from, and knowing that God loves you then, now and throughout infinity. She didn’t see her name or her history as a hindrance. She saw them as a point from which to rise.

I love how Paul asks the sisters and brothers in Christ in Rome to welcome Phoebe “in a manner worthy of the saints” – yet another way he showed she was to be respected and honored. You noticed he didn’t give all of Phoebe’s history or past. He didn’t write, “Oh friends in Rome, although Phoebe was once a lost Greek who committed the sin of having another god before the God, she has now seen the Light.” No, it’s none of their business to know what her past is, and it is her past should she be willing to share it. Paul obviously respected and appreciate Phoebe for who she was in Christ right then and how faithful she was in her service. Can anyone say that about you?

Phoebe was definitely bright. She applied herself. She handled things. She ministered to many. She’s my kinda gal. I think we need more Phoebes in the church and in the body of Christ. Don’t you?


(2) Patterson, Dorothy Kelley & Kelley, Rhonda Harrington: Women’s Evangelical Commentary New Testament

(3) Acts 18:18 documents Paul being in Cenchrea with Priscilla and Aquila who are mentioned in Romans 16:3.

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