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Philip's weakness

Acts 8:26–40

For more commentary on this week's readings, see the Reflections on the Lectionary page, which includes Bantum's current Living by the Word column as well as past magazine and blog content. For full-text access to all articles, subscribe to the Century.

In the story of Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch, I have always been struck by the pronouncements of Philip’s boldness. As a young Christian, I was often called to this kind of boldness: to go out to the stranger and the foreigner and declare the good works of God.

But revisiting this passage I am struck by how weak Philip is--and how necessary this is to his ministry. The eunuch’s audacity and exuberance are mesmerizing as well. This seems to be not a story of one man’s faithfulness so much as one about how the proclamation of God’s good news needs the hearer as much as it needs the one who declares.

This shift mirrors the reality of my own life. I am far from the courageous missionary who walks out in certainty of God’s faith. More often I have found myself on strange roads and come across needs that I just happened to have tools for. Even more often, I have been the person lost, broken and unsur--and someone has happened upon me, asked me a question and shared something that broke open the limitations I had felt so deeply.

I find great hope in the story that God uses both knowing and not knowing, certainty and uncertainty--and that these are often wrapped up in the same moment to wonderful and miraculous effect.

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