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Monday, July 24, 2017

Sunflowers on the Old Windmill Farm (Photo by Jesse Lapp)
Sunflowers on the Old Windmill Farm
(Photo by Jesse Lapp)

"Hard-working Mary"

Note: This week we will share a series of messages based on five of the names in Romans 16. Romans is considered by many to be Paul's
"Magnum Opus", a work regarded as the most important contribution of an artist or writer. (Example here). The Book of Romans sets forth so clearly the great doctrines of justification. Chapters 1-11 are deeply doctrinal while Chapter 12-15 are an expression of Christian life based on these doctrines. In chapter 16, although there are some very important spiritual truths presented such as the powerful Doxology, for the most part it is a very personal expression from Paul to the people. Most of these individuals are not mentioned elsewhere in Scripture. What can we learn from these very real, very ordinary people?

Those familiar with the Bible will readily identify Hebrews 11 as the "Hall of Fame of Faith".  This chapter mentions many of the "famous" characters of the Old Testament such as Noah, Abraham and Moses.

But Romans 16 is another Hall of Fame, representing the scores of little known believers who have contributed to the advancement of God's Kingdom throughout the church age.  Most of the names mentioned in this chapter (35 of them) are not referred to anywhere else in Scripture. Yet each made an impact on Paul's life and upon many others as well.

Message summary: We've met a lot of people through the years like the Mary in Romans 16. In fact some have actually been named Mary! What a tremendous blessing they are; ordinary people using ordinary gifts to build up Christ's extraordinary church. All over the world, unheralded and often underappreciated, they're still a major part of God's plan in getting the job done.

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"Greet Mary, who worked very hard for you" (Romans 16:6).

Today we would like to express honor to Veda. Apart from her own family, her local church and circle of friends in Taunton Massachusetts she is not well-known. (Which would be true of about all of us!!!) When I assumed the pastorate of a church in New England in the early nineties very soon I met the Shibilo family. Bill was on the church board and their son Greg played the organ. Veda led the choir and taught a Sunday School class among other duties, which in a short time included serving as my secretary. The Shibilos were a blessing and were faithful and supportive during our 7˝ year tenure of service. Bill went on to his heavenly home in 2000 while we were there but Veda still remains on on this side. We saw her last summer at a wedding and she is still as pleasant as ever. She is Ester's spiritual grandma and has warmed our heart over the years as she upheld Ester's name in daily prayer right along with her own biological grandchildren.

Hopefully this will prompt a consideration of someone like Veda in your life. Today's message is about an otherwise unknown greetee (yes, that is a word, see here) in Romans 16.

Mary from Romans 16:6
"Greet Mary." It must have been special to hear your name read aloud when this letter was initially presented to the Roman church. It's a blessing to be greeted.

Mention Mary in the Bible and one probably assumes a reference to the mother of our Lord or to Mary Magdalene. But today's brief Scripture verse is the only Mary mentioned in any of the epistles, a dedicated local believer in the Roman church.

Her simple distinction? She "worked very hard for you." We are not told what she did, but the Roman believers knew very well. Perhaps she was on the fellowship committee or coordinated the nursery workers. Those are sure two hard jobs in a healthy, active church!  Maybe she stayed around after a church meal to scrub the dishes. That had to be done back then as well. 

Whatever she did, she worked very hard at it. The emphasis on "very" is purposeful. The KJV reads "bestowed much labor".

Finally let us note the simple words "for you". What a blessing she must have been to the church in Rome as she served others! What a reminder to us of the importance of appreciating our fellow workers in the Lord. Take notice of their contribution and express your appreciation often. You don't know how that person may need to be affirmed in a ministry where they may lack confidence.

We've met a lot of people through the years like Mary. In fact some have actually been named Mary! What a tremendous blessing they are; ordinary people using ordinary gifts to build up Christ's extraordinary church. All over the world, unheralded and often underappreciated, they're still a major part of God's plan in getting the job done.

Take note of the "Marys" within your congregation, people like Veda in our opening paragraph. Speak a word of appreciation to them as you notice what others might not. And if you happen to be a hard worker like Mary you will someday hear the words of greatest commendation from the Master Himself, "Well done, good and faithful servant!"

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Praying manDaily prayer: Father, as we diligently labor for You it is not to bring attention to ourselves, but it is to bring glory to Your name. Help us to find our place of Christian service where we can develop our gifts and expend our labors for the building up of the body of Christ. We are indebted to so many along life's path who have stepped out of their comfort zone and said, "Yes" I will do what is needed to further the kingdom of God and bless others. Amen.

Brooksyne's Note:  Do you know one whose labor is expended when others are not present, thereby it usually goes unnoticed. One such role is the janitor of a church who sees that the bathrooms are scrubbed, toilet paper and papers towel dispensers are filled, mirrors shine, floors are swept, glass doors are polished, etc.  We expect to see our church clean on Sundays and think little of it…… unless it is not clean or paper towels are missing, etc.  And then we might even get a little miffed.  Some people serve in a capacity that goes completely unnoticed until something is out of place.

Therefore when they're doing a good job we rarely consider their valuable contribution and even more rarely let them know how much we appreciate their work.  In the past we had a part-time janitorial couple who were in their mid to late 70's.  While I was a Sunday School teacher I had the children each write a note of thanks on our chalkboard so the they would see it while cleaning that week.  We also wrote notes of thanks another time and dropped them in their mailbox.  This couple attended some of our special services and each time we talked they always say, "You're the one who thanked us for cleaning the church."  They didn't really know me personally but they recognized me by this small gesture that meant a great deal to them.  They no longer clean that church, in fact the husband of the team is now with Jesus, but they did a great job since they did it as unto the Lord.

Suggested Exercise: You might bless your church cleaning team by slipping a note of appreciation along with a Scripture verse under the plastic liner of a trash can (arrive early so you can do this before trash fills the liner). Usually there are extra liners stacked under the trash liner which saves the cleaner time and it's on top of that stack that I did this in the past. Imagine the surprise when the janitors who are simply going about their routine work come upon a note addressed to them under the liner of the trash(es). It will likely put a smile on their face and fill a warm place in their hearts as they go about their weekly cleaning of the church building, and who knows it might even fill their hearts with a song as they run the sweeper that day.

List of proper names in Romans 16:

Phoebe, Priscilla, Aquila, Epenetus, Mary, Andronicus, Junias, Ampliatus, Urbanus, Stachys, Apelles, Aristobulus & household, Herodion (relative), Narcissus & household, Tryphena, Tryphosa, Persis, Rufus & his mother, Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermes, Patrobas, Hermas & brothers with him, Philologus, Julia, Neures and his sister, Olympas, Timothy, Lucius, Jason, Sosipater, Tertius, Gaius, Erastus, Quartus

Some Romans 16 people in our lives

Veda Shibilo with Ester 6/17/16
We last saw Veda, referred to in the first paragraph of today's message, in June 2016 when we were up in Newport, RI for a wedding. (This photo was taken outside in the dark night.)

Bunny and Peg 7/21/17
It's always a joy to see "Bunny" and Peg O'Hare whom we first met at conference in 2000 in Boston. We tend to run into the at BJ's Warehouse. Bunny is a chaplain for Transport For Christ, a ministry to truck drivers.

Don and Carole Musser 7/22/17
In the course of a chaplain visit to the employees at a Holiday Inn Express Brooksyne visited with our long-time friends Don and Carole Musser. Don was probably the first self-identified Christian I met when I began serving as a chaplain in Lancaster County in early 2001.

Haddon Robinson at Central Market 1/18/13
Yesterday we heard in church that Haddon Robinson passed away Saturday. He and his wife have lived here in the Lancaster area during his retirement. We have appreciated his ministry for many years through RBC Ministries. Many of you have read his materials or heard him on the Radio Bible Class. I first met him at a course at Gordon-Conwell some twenty-five years ago. He was an overcomer having dealt with Parkinson's Disease the last several years. H
ere is an example of his teaching (video). Recommended for all preachers! He was in his eighties when he preached this message. (Photo above was taken about 4 years ago when we saw him at the Central Market.)

Today's Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources

"The Chain Breaker"  Video  Triumphant Quartet  We sure enjoyed this song last night

"I Know Him"  Video 
Triumphant Quartet

Pierce family at Triumphant Quartet concert 7/23/17
Last night the Pierce family joined us in attending the Triumphant Quartet concert in Lebanon. They are sitting in a light rain waiting for the concert to begin. Ken and Nila are also some fine Romans 16 type folks!

Triumphant Quartet concert 7/23/17
As the rain increased the concert organizer invited all who wanted to come sit on the stage since the quartet insisted they would still hold the concert. Most everyone did including Brooksyne and the Pierce family. I chose to enjoy the concert in the drenching rain (if you look carefully you will see me, sitting with my leg crossed, in the center of the photo under the black umbrella.) Brooksyne took this photo as she was sitting on the platform. As you can see the field that is usually filled with thousands of people was nearly vacant. Perhaps there were as many as 300 people in attendance as compared to the usual 3000 - 5000 attendees. We got 2" of rain overnight at our house so you can imagine how wet it was during the concert.

Triumphant Quartet concert 7/23/17
The crowd on the stage got a rather close setting. It was a wonderful concert and a memorable one considering the circumstances. Music in the Park has been held every other Sunday for 27 years during the summer months and only 5 times before has this happened, as mentioned by the director. So we were there for the 6th time. 

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Scripture references are from The Holy Bible: New International Version. © 1984 by International Bible Society; NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1995 by The Lockman Foundation, New King James Version (NKJV) Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. and the King James Version.

Personal Mission Statement: "I am created by God to bring Him glory. Through God's Son Jesus Christ I have been redeemed and make it my life's goal to please the Lord. My mission in life is to honor God through my faith and obedience and prepare myself and all whom I may influence for eternity."

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