The team has stopped in Montescaglioso to minister the Gospel over the next two days in partnership with a local evangelical fellowship that meet in the area. Yesterday evenings meeting gave the opportunity to share the Gospel message and the vast majority of people responded to the invitation to receive Jesus into their hearts. Our hosts Gina and Domenico have taken such good care of us, and we are looking forward continue the mission today.
Montescaglioso is one of the principal centers in the Province of Matera based on economic importance, historical and environmental heritage and a population of over 10,100 people. The first activity here is documented beginning with the Bronze Age, while the first inhabited center was founded in the 9th-8th Centuries A.D., evidence of which is visible at Porta Schiavoni.
On the way home after the evening meeting, Salvatore and I were speaking about our appreciation for art, and in particular the work of Michelangelo who is regarded as perhaps the most iconic artist of the Italian Renaissance.
For almost 100 years, a huge piece of flawed Carrara marble lay in the courtyard of a cathedral in Florence, Italy. Then in 1501, Michelangelo, only a young sculptor of the age of 26, was asked to do something with it. He measured the block and noted its imperfections. In his mind, he envisioned a young shepherd boy.
For 3 years, he chiseled and shaped the marble skillfully. Finally, when the 18-foot towering figure of David was unveiled in 1504, his student exclaimed to Michelangelo, “Master, it lacks only one thing – speech!”
Onesimus was like that flawed marble. He was an unfaithful servant when he fled from his master Philemon. But while on the run he came to know the Master Sculptor. As a changed man, he served God faithfully and was invaluable to Paul’s ministry. When Paul sent him back to Philemon, he commended him as one “who once was unprofitable to you, but now is profitable to you and to me” (Philemon 1:11). He asked Philemon to receive Onesimus back as a brother (Philemon 1:16).
Paul knew what it meant to be given another chance after past wrongs (Acts 9:26-28). He knew personally the transformation God can accomplish. Now he saw it in the life of Onesimus. The Lord can chisel His image on our flawed lives and make us beautiful and useful too.
The Lord Jesus is able to take each sin, each pain, each loss, and by the power of His cross He is able to transforms our brokenness and shame so that our lives can exalt His name. Remember that our rough edges must be chipped away to bring out the image of Christ.
Paul’s Plea for Onesimus
8 Therefore, although in Christ I could be bold and order you to do what you ought to do, 9 yet I prefer to appeal to you on the basis of love. It is as none other than Paul – an old man and now also a prisoner of Christ Jesus – 10 that I appeal to you for my son Onesimus,[a] who became my son while I was in chains. 11 Formerly he was useless to you, but now he has become useful both to you and to me.
12 I am sending him – who is my very heart – back to you. 13 I would have liked to keep him with me so that he could take your place in helping me while I am in chains for the gospel. 14 But I did not want to do anything without your consent, so that any favor you do would not seem forced but would be voluntary. 15 Perhaps the reason he was separated from you for a little while was that you might have him back forever – 16 no longer as a slave, but better than a slave, as a dear brother. He is very dear to me but even dearer to you, both as a fellow man and as a brother in the Lord.
17 So if you consider me a partner, welcome him as you would welcome me. 18 If he has done you any wrong or owes you anything, charge it to me. 19 I, Paul, am writing this with my own hand. I will pay it back – not to mention that you owe me your very self.