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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Today’s Scripture Reading | Acts 8:26–40

Then an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Get up and go toward the south to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” (This is a wilderness road.) So he got up and went. Now there was an Ethiopian eunuch, a court official of the Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, in charge of her entire treasury. He had come to Jerusalem to worship and was returning home; seated in his chariot, he was reading the prophet Isaiah. Then the Spirit said to Philip, “Go over to this chariot and join it.” So Philip ran up to it and heard him reading the prophet Isaiah. He asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?” He replied, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he invited Philip to get in and sit beside him. Now the passage of the scripture that he was reading was this: “Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter, and like a lamb silent before its shearer, so he does not open his mouth. In his humiliation justice was denied him. Who can describe his generation? For his life is taken away from the earth.” The eunuch asked Philip, “About whom, may I ask you, does the prophet say this, about himself or about someone else?” Then Philip began to speak, and starting with this scripture, he proclaimed to him the good news about Jesus. As they were going along the road, they came to some water; and the eunuch said, “Look, here is water! What is to prevent me from being baptized?” He commanded the chariot to stop, and both of them, Philip and the eunuch, went down into the water, and Philip baptized him. When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord snatched Philip away; the eunuch saw him no more, and went on his way rejoicing. But Philip found himself at Azotus, and as he was passing through the region, he proclaimed the good news to all the towns until he came to Caesarea. (NRSV)

After a lifetime of hearing the gospel preached and unpacked and also having the chance to study and proclaim it myself, I’ve had plenty of opportunities to reflect on what Jesus did and said about “the other.” Whether it was healing lepers (Matthew 8:1–4), eating with tax collectors (Mark 2:13–17), engaging with women as fully human people (Luke 10:38–42), or teaching through the story of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25–37), Jesus consistently and without fanfare reached out to those who others in his culture and nation saw as “less than.”

During this Easter season bursting with color and joy and life, the church annually asks us to consider the story of Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch. Philip, on fire with Jesus’ model and message, doesn’t just talk to someone different than himself; he runs after this person—who was a foreigner, a racial minority, a sexual minority.

When I hear these stories, I will usually spend a few minutes wondering about whom I exclude, whom I consider it acceptable to look down on, whom I consciously or unconsciously treat as marginal. I can do better than that. I can think and pray with intention and honesty and energy. I can hold myself accountable to what I profess to believe. Most importantly I can repent my sinful behaviors and open myself to the grace that purifies and transforms. I can be and do more.

Jesus, you who saw all people as precious reflections of divine wonder, thank you for all who have witnessed to your example of radical inclusivity. Give me the enthusiasm and spontaneity of Philip and the patience and curiosity of the nameless Ethiopian man, as I seek to learn from those who may make me uncomfortable or challenge what I think or simply do things differently. Please forgive my failures. In your holy name. Amen.

Written by Susan Quaintance, Program Coordinator, Center for Life and Learning

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