For the next six weeks we are inviting artists to reflect on Philemon, a rather short letter from the Apostle Paul in the New Testament. This first week we are pleased to offer a poem by artist David Brendan Hopes.


Meditations on Philemon


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.

  I do not think that coming and going will be the same
after you have experienced
the exhortation out and the summons home.
  You who crept in by cover of night
will be greeted by cymbals at dawn
and by dancers with bells at the ankles
or you will not come at all.
  The impulse for the miracle to be secret
among the believers
shall be changed to crowing on a red roof
in the red of dawn, and this shall be well.
  We whom slavery has accustomed to edging in
by the narrow way
shall gather with our trumpets at the broad gate.

Who is prepared to say how these things are?
We fall by an action and find
redemption in a word, and in the white storm
the first gold blossom huddles in the flower box.

  He is on the road who was once useless to you.
Things change.
The moon comes in silence before, the Sun
in rejoicing after.




From the Artist: 

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.






This poem is copyrighted by the artist and used here by permission.

Cover photo by David Wagner.

Help more artists create works on biblical text by donating to Spark and Echo Arts.


All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.  The “NIV” and “New International Version” are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc.™

Tagged with:

Filed under: FeaturedNew WorksWritings