Kirkepiscatoid

Random and not so random musings from a 5th generation NE Missourian who became a 1st generation Episcopalian. Let the good times roll!


(Two of Kara Hobbs' goats, named Eudoia and Syntyche. BTW, Kara does some amazing things with yarn, and how many people can attribute their sweater or hat to the animal that produced it?)

Philippians 3:17-4:7:

Brothers and sisters, join in imitating me, and observe those who live according to the example you have in us. For many live as enemies of the cross of Christ; I have often told you of them, and now I tell you even with tears. Their end is destruction; their god is the belly; and their glory is in their shame; their minds are set on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven, and it is from there that we are expecting a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. He will transform the body of our humiliation that it may be conformed to the body of his glory, by the power that also enables him to make all things subject to himself.

Therefore, my brothers and sisters, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, my beloved. I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord. Yes, and I ask you also, my loyal companion, help these women, for they have struggled beside me in the work of the gospel, together with Clement and the rest of my co-workers, whose names are in the book of life. Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

One of the things that started intriguing me both in the Acts of the Apostles and Paul's Epistles are the various folks who hold "cameo roles" in these books. They are often mentioned once, and we never hear anything more about them. Eudoia and Syntyche are two rather intriguing characters to me in this way. Sometimes, it's a disappointment to me that we know so little about these people, but I have come to the conclusion these people exist in the Bible as a window to our own spiritual imaginations--to take what we know about human nature and our intuitions about people in general, and combine it with our own life experiences to come up with plausible scenarios for how their situation must have been. I have found when I reflect on these cameo players in the Bible, "reflect" is the accurate statement, because it always bounces back to me, and my life, and I almost always can see another situation in my life that parallels it.

Well, let's start with what I know about the church in Philippi.

Philippi, in Macedonia, was, in a lot of ways, a retirement town for Roman Army veterans. The church there had a distinct "episcopal" way of overseeing itself, which made sense, because that was the "military way." It had overseers and deacons. It was probably a rather culturally diverse church, and Paul spoke often about the need for them to be like-minded. It seems from his Epistle that Paul had a fondness for the church there, and it was mutual. But it seems there might have been a lot of strong willed people in that church. My guess is Eudoia and Syntyche were two of them. It seems that they were not subservient people in the church at all, because Paul gives them the same consideration he gives men in his letters.

I imagine Eudoia and Syntyche were two women in the church in Philippi who were, in their own ways, movers and shakers. Perhaps they didn't have all that much in common with each other except their love of the church, and that each of them was rather strong-willed in their own way. They probably each took their role in the church very seriously. Perhaps too seriously at times. I wonder sometimes if they were wives or daughters of military men--brought up in a rigid way to do things. (I can just hear them say, "But that's the way we've always done it!" or "We've never done it that way before!" Maybe they were the first Episcopalians!)

My guess is Eudoia and Syntyche were both beloved people in the church there, and there was certainly room enough and love enough for both of them. Perhaps the other people in the church saw each of them as women of great faith and leaders--which makes me wonder if each of them, sometimes had the burden of "appearances." When things were rattling in the church, they had to look not rattled. When no one knew what to do, they had to look like they knew what to do when they really didn't. There were times they had to be leaders when they were secretly scared to death, or people didn't have a clue what stresses were going on in their real lives outside the church.

My guess is they developed rather high and unreasonable expectations for themselves in times of stress, and somehow, they projected those unreasonable expectations on each other rather than dealing with their own stuff.

We don't know what caused them to go at each other. They might even had been a close "dual force" once upon a time. They might have both been duped by another leader in the church that they were opposites, when, in fact, they were more alike than different in their love and desires for the church. But my guess is, whatever it was, it made them incredibly suspicious of each other, and they probably never gave the other slack when they would have given slack to anyone else in the church. I bet they "counted coup" on each other's transgressions and even made book on anything that even looked out of line. In a parallel universe, each was blaming the other for things of their own they were not addressing in themselves. I would bet my house payment that they had "seen" transgressions in each other that were not actually happening anywhere but in their minds, and no matter what the other did, it was "wrong." "Damned if you do, damned if you don't" is one the oldest recipes in the world for driving people apart.

I also bet neither of them was truly "the culprit." I bet they both were in some things, and neither of them were in others. I bet over time, even when things were going well, people in the church at Philippi would say to one or another of them, "What's up with you and Eudoia/Syntyche? You're both such good people in the church and we love you both. Why can't you two just make up? It's like an elephant in the room." They probably sat way far away from each other. If they had to sit together, you probably could have driven a Mack truck between them. But to the casual observer, everything was "fine."

We never know if they ever made up, either. If they did, we are not shown how they did.

If they did make up, it probably looked like two porcupines mating. I can just imagine the two of them dancing mental circles around each other, both actually wanting to make up, but not knowing how to start. I imagine in their hearts what they really wanted was to hug each other and cry and even yell at each other a little bit, but how in the world could either of them be the one who said the thing that "broke the ice?" If what drove them apart was something that damaged their self-worth to a mere shred of what it used to be--or they chronically struggled with their self-worth--how did they ever reveal their vulnerability to each other?

How can any of us make up to anyone when one simultaneously fears being attacked by the other, or attacked by the image of what drove them apart?

It's been my experience that something else comes into play when people in this situation finally make up. Something that neither of them planned. Something that neither of them can control or cause. If it happens, it's because the willingness for them both to let that thing be revealed and use the opportunity happens. I have found that particularly true when the inciting "cause" of the rift was a third party. It's almost like "An outside force caused this division; it takes another outside force to heal it." Something from the outside has to be bigger than the "You started it/No, you started it!" dynamic.

But just as we never know how the rifts in our own lives turn out until the end of the story, we will never know what happened with Eudoia and Syntyche. However, we can use their story to ask God for the awareness for the windows of opportunity in which we can heal our own rifts with others.

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Kirksville, Missouri, United States
I'm a longtime area resident of that quirky and wonderful place called Kirksville, MO and am wondering what God has hiding round the next corner in my life.

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