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.
Our oldest son was baptized when he was six. For two years before that he’d been asking questions about who God was and praying prayers of his own making. So his mother and I set him upon the road of discipleship.
One of the most interesting shifts in Christian theology after the Shoah was in how the adjective Jewish was used. In the patristic era, to call someone’s work Jewish was to insult it: the work was too fleshly or legalistic. Since the Shoah, to call someone’s work Jewish is to praise it as appropriately this-worldly, concerned with the ordinary stuff of life, embodied.
“What will survive of us is love,” writes Philip Larkin in his remarkably unsentimental poem “An Arundel Tomb.” He is reflecting on the recumbent stone effigy over the grave of a couple buried long ago in an ancient church.
Maybe we should take a step further, however, and say that love is that which not only “survives” but also rises, or is raised, from any and every grave. This is especially important to bear in mind in the face of all the threats to love, those powers and forces that try to bury it.
When Stacy Johnson Myers of First Congregational Church in River Falls, Wisconsin, asked illustrator Amy Sands to create 36 images of Bible scenes for the congregation’s faith formation, the results were vivid and engaging. Now Myers has collaborated with Kathryn Brewer to create three books of these colorful images. “There are different kinds of darkness . . .” begins Light in the Darkness, which tells biblical stories from creation through Pentecost with a focus on God’s covenantal relationship with the world. Many congregations across the country are now purchasing copies of the books and prints of the artwork from the congregation’s website (firstchurchrf.org, October 4).