Meditations on Philemon
By David Brendan Hopes• Philemon 1:1–3
I do not think you can go that way
without someone sending you.
I do not think you can come back
unless the way has been prepared
and the places set to meet you along the road.
Poet David Brendan Hopes reflects on the short book of Philemon, particularly on the passage of Philemon 1:1-3.
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1 Paul, a prisoner of Jesus Christ, and Timothy our brother, unto Philemon our dearly beloved, and fellowlabourer, 2 And to our beloved Apphia, and Archippus our fellowsoldier, and to the church in thy house: 3 Grace to you, and peace, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
David Brendan Hopes
What a strange assignment Philemon was! I don’t recall hearing a scripture from it in church, even through many years of the Episcopal cycle. But when I read it, it touched me, for I heard Paul advocating for a person who had apparently failed expectation, even Paul’s own, and who, yet, was deserving of another chance, as Christ gives us chances far beyond our deserving, or any hope of fulfillment. It is an odd book, and one wonders what debate went on at Nicea in order that it might be included. But it’s very strangeness and unfamiliarity made it seem fresh to me, more like a conversation with a wise friend that a sacred Epistle.
David Brendan Hopes is a poet, actor, and playwright living in Asheville, NC, where he teaches Literature, creative writing, and Humanities at UNCA.