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Archive for July, 2012

            The reading from Acts of the Apostles in Chapter 8 about the Ethiopian Eunuch reminds me about the power of hearing our own life story captured within the larger story of the life of God’s people. This man finds himself within this story and desires to know more about it. Phillip’s role is to help the man learn more about the story that resonates with this man and to teach him about the rest of the story of God’s good news in Jesus the Christ. Phillip is to be focused on the man’s questions and hunger for the gospel and not on an agenda of his own. Phillip doesn’t begin asking the man questions aimed at uncovering whether he is properly informed about the gospel nor does he ask the usual “have you been saved” question that is a question leading to the agenda and pat sales pitch used these days in the guise of evangelism, rather Phillip attentively listens to the man and responds to the man’s questions.

            This is a great lesson for the church today because it will lead us to be, as my granddaughter says, to be “good listeners” and to be attentive to the questions people have about themselves, about God, about their place within the larger story of God with God’s people, so they might discover how they fit into that larger, more expansive story. This story ought to make the church rethink its penchant for programs and marketing schemes and worship changes aimed at being more like the culture surrounding it as a way to attract people to come and join, so the local congregation can be the place where people hear their life stories within scripture and find answers to their questions as opposed to being questioned by the congregation to see if they fit into the congregation’s preconceived mold and if they meet the congregation’s purity standards for theological, ritual, and like mindedness no matter whether it is the liberal purity or conservative purity standards.

            Which leads into the other important lesson to be learned and that is the only confession that needs to be made is that Jesus the Christ is Lord and Savior. That is it. Everything else that might be put in the way of being baptized and becoming part of the community of God’s people is the church erecting a barrier to keep people outside the church, which is exactly in opposition to what Jesus was intending. The question, “What is to keep me from being baptized?” is the question about barriers and hoops to be jumped through and the answer given in the act of being baptized tells us that nothing stands in the way of the Ethiopian man being baptized. Thus, the church needs to rethink its own practices of baptism and reflect upon whether we think baptism is a visible expression of God’s grace and is the beginning of the faith journey in response to God’s grace or not. If it is, then how are we teaching that it is and if it is not a visible expression of God’s grace, but is a marker about what a person believes and marks the acceptance of God’s grace then, I believe, we have to ask a whole host of other questions about what we comprehend God’s grace to be about and whether those comprehensions are consonant with scripture and the witness of the early church or are at odds with it. This does, I think, also lead to a question about whether God created the church or is the church a human created institution and what is important about how that question is answered.   

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