Friday, March 2, 2012

Women of the Bible Encouragement Series: Euodius & Synteche ~ Unity

“You put what in my dough?!” A woman squeaked. An old woman.
I stopped and searched the village street, the sun making one peachy-white glowscape out of everything. Noisy wind whipped dust and hair into my eyes. No one was there.
The response was mumbled and full of persuasion. It came from the hut I’d just passed.
            A wail groaned out of the house and I came closer to peak through the darkened door. A woman, not over five feet, propped her basket heavily on a worktable with her other hand to her forehead.
Another figure stood next to her, wrist deep in a bowl of…something. She was taller, but only by a couple inches.
“I knew this would happen. I go to the market this morning, am not gone for more than two breaths and you manage to ruin my famous raisin cakes.”
The shadowy house vibrated with a barked rebuttal. “I did not ruin them, Euodius! Now, put in the raisins you brought from market or else I’ll have to use these week-old dates. The batter is ready to bake and the coals, they have cooled too long already.”
Euodius? I remembered that name from Paul’s writings. Euodias and Synteche, women from the church here in Philippi who could not get along.
“Today’s meeting will be held in our house and we should serve refreshments that are full of flavor,” the dough-covered woman continued, “I couldn’t have the elders bite into a bland cookie.”
“My cakes are not bland! I have Brother Paul’s word on that one, Synteche--you remember how many he ate when he was here.”
            “And you might try remembering how he recorded our names and our discord in his only letter to—”
I sneezed.
Both women looked up, Synteche’s dough covered finger two raisin lengths from Euodius’ nose. A clod of grainy dough plopped to the table.
I shrugged. Too late to back up.
            Ignoring my uncouth interruption, the woman named Euodius waddled to me, took my hand and pulled me in. “You there, come and be the judge betwixt us.” Her fuzzy white head bobbed ahead of me until we were toe to toe with Synteche in the dim room.
“I—I’m no expert on raisin cakes. Surely there is someone else…”
Euodius’ well padded hands urged me onto a stool. “We haven’t the time, child. The followers of the Way will gather here at any moment. Now sit.”
“Is the Brother Paul you speak of not in town?”
The women looked at one another then the floor.
Synteche began to sniffle. “He went to be with the Lord a few years back.”
Euodius put an arm around the taller woman and patted her arm. “He gave his life for the Gospel’s sake.” She ruefully looked at the dough on Synteche’s hands. “After all these years, it still takes much effort to ‘be of the same mind in the Lord’, doesn't it, Sister Synteche?”
The woman nodded and dabbed a wrist to her dripping eye.
"Enough now," Euodius straightened brusquely and emptied two handfuls of raisins from a cloth wrap she'd held in her basket, "lets get these cakes to baking."
I watched them work, afraid to ask what was on my mind for fear it would start another argument. Soon enough curiosity won out. "If you don't mind my asking, what was the disagreement that caused Brother Paul's mention of you in his letter?" 
Synteche helped her friend spread the dough in neat little piles on the long baking instrument. As if they'd not heard, they continued until the task was done. Then they rinsed their hands in a basin. Finally their eyes met with chagrined laughter. 
"Ahhhhh me!" Euodius cackled and jiggled her elbow into Synteche's ribs. When the laughter flowed slowly away, she looked at me. 
"It was a pigeon."
"A pigeon." My question was more of a statement.
Euodius nodded once. "A pigeon."
"And quite a skinny one, at that!" Synteche said. Her voice flew to the highest scales of the register with more laughter. These old ladies were a hoot.
"Well, the little stubby-beaked thing was my pet. But Synteche's boy was out practicing with stone and sling and brought the poor bird home to her for supper. Synteche was so pleased to have a young, fat fowl to cook, she decided to make it an occasion and invite me, her old childhood friend, to sup with her that evening!"
At this, Synteche's heat-moistened cheeks turned red with merriment and she pushed out a sentence with the one breath she could muster. "Oooh-I-will-never-forget-your-countenance!" She heaved in air, hand to breast, and bumped a hip against the crusty wall for support. "To this day, my boy won't eat pigeon to save his life."
"It was fifteen years before we spoke again. Oh, we still gathered faithfully with the church, but I think it did more harm than good." Euodius cocked her head at me and wagged a finger. "I would have you to know, our frivolous feuding caused more trouble for our dear church from inside than any outsider could have made. Once word burned through the town that the church quaked with disharmony, the number of souls saved and added to our gathering diminished daily. No one is convicted by a Christian's life which is not separated to God. Faith that doesn't make a change in us, doesn't make a difference in others. Our testimonies as individuals and as a church were quenched for a time. It is a very serious thing to cause discord in Christ's beloved church. The Lord hates it, Proverbs says." (Proverbs 6:16-19)
"Oh, look." Syntyche smoothed back her coiled hair. "there is Brother Amyntas, coming over the hill."
Euodius turned to me. "Won't you stay for the assembly?"
Synteche checked the cakes. "Yes, please do."
"I had better be on my way, but thank you."
"Are you not a follower of Christ?" The ladies looked on me for the first time with fear and distrust. They must have often had spies from the outside, seeking to destroy the church. 
"Yes, but it is still early I have other believers to meet with today. Please give my greetings to your congregation."
The ladies seemed relieved at that and hustled to wrap two raisin cakes for me. Brother Amyntas spoke courteously as I passed and I already missed the quaint duo he would soon see. 
After a moist whiff of cinnamon and cloves, I pulled out a cake for a mouthwatering nibble. 
Toothsome baking like this showcased the tangy flavor of lifelong experience. Their gift of example by repentance and efforts of unity, however, held just as sweet a savor.

Phil 2:3-5 "Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Do all things without murmurings and disputings: That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world;"
I Cor. 1:10 "Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment."
Romans 15:5-6 "Now the God of patience and consolation grant you to be likeminded one toward another according to Christ Jesus: That ye may with one mind and one mouth glorify God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ."
In John 17:20-21, Jesus said, speaking of his disciples, "Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me."
"That the world may believe..."