Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Philip Says Yes

I think something happens when we say to God, “Ok, here I am. What do you want me to do?” I don’t know whether Philip the evangelist ever actually said that, but his life seemed to suggest it. As the story in Acts goes, Philip was one of the seven chosen to help take care of the Christian community because the apostles were too busy preaching the word. Philip basically was chosen to wait on tables and take care of widows so that more important people could do their jobs. But that didn’t stop Philip. It was a launching pad.

Only two of those deacons (“servants”) are mentioned again in the bible. One is Stephen, who was the church’s first martyr. The other is Philip, who seems to be doing anything and everything but distributing bread to widows. Moved by the Spirit, he heads out of town and meets a large caravan. Again led by the Spirit, he goes up to the vehicle containing an Ethiopian eunuch, a member of the household of the Candace, the queen of Ethiopia, and begins to tell him about Jesus. Before long, the eunuch asks to be baptized, so Philip dunks him in a nearby stream before being taken up, again by the Spirit, and transported somewhere else.

I wonder whether Philip had any idea what his appointment/ordination would lead to. He was supposed to help out in the kitchen, and he became a great evangelist. What might that suggest for us?

In the gospel lesson for today, Jesus tells his disciples, “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and Spirit.” Philip wasn’t there, but he got the message. When his time came, he simply said, “Ok, God. I’m here. What do I do?” And God made amazing things happen through him. We don’t need to know exactly what God will do through us. We don’t need to know how things will unfold. All we need to do is make ourselves available and great things happen.

But making one’s self available is more than just uttering the phrase, “Ok, what next?” Our entire lives must testify to that truth. We must live lightly, as Jesus commanded his disciples. We must be willing to go—into strange places and odd circumstances. We must let go of our attachment to the life we know and love and let God lead us elsewhere. That doesn’t mean that the vocation that awaits us is harsh or trying, though it could be. But it does mean that God might call us to something we can’t even imagine.

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