“Give my greetings to the brethren at Laodicea, and to Nympha and the church in her house (κατ᾽οἶκον αὐτῆς ἐκκλησίαν). And 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. And say to Archippus, ‘See that you fulfil the ministry which you have received in the Lord.’ I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand. Remember my chains. Grace be with you.” (Col 4: 15-18)
The final greetings at the end of St. Paul’s letter to the Colossians, which are part of our Church’s reading for today, are very personal, and specific to the community for which they were written. And yet, we read these greetings, year after year, as part of our Church’s liturgical “reading program“ or lectionary, as if they should be instructive to us, ca. two millennia after they were written. But how are these greetings instructive today?
For one thing, they are instructive to Church-leaders, to remember their flocks even from afar, and even personally, by name, – just as the great St. Paul remembered a certain Archippus, and a certain Nympha, a woman (!) who was apparently the head of a house, in which there was also a church. (In the time of persecutions, when there were no public church-buildings, church-communities would gather in private homes.) These greetings also teach all of us to connect with neighboring church-parishes, just as St. Paul tells the Colossians to have his letter “read“ (because back then, as now, his letters were read publicly, at church-gatherings or liturgies), to the faithful of Laodicea, a city not far from Colossae in the southwestern part of Asia Minor (just google a Bible-Map). He also tells the Colossians to read a letter he wrote at some point “from Laodicea,“ (it is contested, which letter is meant), because the two church-communities shared the same issues, which he addresses in his letters, of false teachers in their midst. Finally, the Apostle humbly asks that his people also “remember“ his “chains,“ thus vulnerably sharing, and asking for their prayerful support in, his trials. Holy Apostle Paul, pray to God for us!