The texts for this week are challenging. The Gospel reading, an excerpt from Jesus’ high priestly prayer, is difficult to read aloud. It feels awkward to eavesdrop on Jesus’ intimate moments with God, and one can get lost in the anguish of a savior about to die.
I have found myself dreading Facebook lately. With the general election beginning to churn, the competing posts are out: “Evidence of Obama’s socialist conspiracy!” “Republicans plan to inspect every woman’s womb!” Some are rather scary while others I quietly cheer; still others simply draw me into grief over how little Jesus seems apparent in any of it.
As a teenager I occasionally had moments of spontaneous helpfulness. I’d wake up and say to myself, “Today I am going to clean the kitchen for Mom.” Deeply satisfied with my initiative, I would spend the day soaking in the satisfaction of being a wonderful son. Then I’d return home from school and my mother would greet me, ask how my day had gone and tell me she needed me to clean the kitchen.
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 General Conference of the United Methodist Church convened in Tampa last week. I’m not one of the 988 delegates who have descended on Florida to do the work of our church, nor of the 4,000 hosts, bishops, pages, translators and myriad lobbyists there to help. My participation is limited to following the proceedings from 1,000 miles away.
Still, my emotions have been all over the place. And judging from Twitter and Facebook, this roller coaster of highs and lows is almost universal among those who are there. The stakes feel high this year, higher than usual.
What do young people look for in church? In research done in 250 congregations among people ages 15–29, respondents repeatedly said they were looking for congregations that were “welcoming, accepting, belonging, authentic, hospitable, and caring.” The researchers began to call this set of concerns the “warmth cluster.” Worship bands and ministry programs are not a priority, nor is busyness. Even “niceness” doesn’t work with young people. What they apparently seek at church is a sense of family, which calls for intergenerational relationships (Washington Post, September 6).