Phoebe of Cenchreae
The Epistle for this Sunday is St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans.
As Paul does in so many of his Letters, he asks his audience to greet and welcome his friends. Paul is very generous in recommending his friends to those to whom he is writing.
Romans is often regarded by scholars as Paul’s greatest Letter. It was certainly one of his boldest. Unlike many of his other Letters, it was addressed to an audience he had not met before. He was hoping to visit, and wanted to impress the Romans with his knowledge and his love of Christ Jesus.
Phoebe of Cenchreae was chosen to deliver this important document from Corinth, where it was written, to Rome – an awesome responsibility. She was well known in Cenchreae, a seaport about nine miles east of Corinth. And she was on her way to Rome for business, probably either legal or official business. To have business in Rome, and be selected for the honor of delivering Paul’s letter, she must have been a well-respected personage. Paul bids the Romans to welcome her, in Romans 16: 2: “I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a deacon of the church in Cenchreae, so that you may welcome her in the Lord as is fitting for the saints, and help her in whatever she may require from you, for she has been a benefactor of many and of myself as well.”
Today, our church commemorates Phoebe of Cenchreae. The Collect for this day reads:
Eternal God, who raised up Phoebe as a deacon in your church and minister of your Gospel; Grant us that same grace that, assisted by her prayers and example, we too may take the Gospel to the ends of the earth; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, One God, for ever and ever. Amen.
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The Rev. Charles Hoffacker is a retired priest of the Diocese of Washington