|Pen and Ink Reflections||
what can one person do?
What can one person do? Well, if they are like Philip in today’s story quite a lot! Philip says to Nathanael, ‘come and see.’ Philip is a quick learner. A few verses earlier when the first disciples said to Jesus, ‘Rabbi, where are you staying?’, Jesus replies, ‘come and see’ – and Philip has learnt the value and the power of that response. It is a wonderful – indeed a wonder-filled phrase. ‘Come and see’, ‘come and see’ – just let that really sink in; let the possibilities of that incredible phrase penetrate your being...
If the 3 ‘Rs’ have been said to be the foundation of learning, then there is a case for saying that the writer of Acts of the Apostles gives us 3 ‘Ps’ as the foundation of Christian identity and mission. For in Acts chapter 8 we read today’s passage about Philip and the eunuch. This is immediately followed, in chapter 9, by the story of Paul’s conversion and acceptance into the Christian community. Then, in chapter 10, we have the story of Peter’s strange dream which leads to his conversion to the full acceptance of Gentiles without demands. Typically these stories are treated separately, as discrete events in the life of the early Church. Yet I wonder. May they not actually be interconnected, as part of one truly remarkable story told by Acts? For in these stories we see something of how the early Jewish Christian sect became a highly engaged and outward looking community of radical inclusion: embracing the outcast, the oppressed and the oppressor, from whatever race, religion or other identity they came. This was a truly extraordinary shift in attitude and practice. Of course the seeds were very much present in the Hebrew scriptures and, above all, in the praxis of Jesus. Yet it still represents perhaps the greatest conversion in all Christian history: beyond, for example, the Church’s turn around on slavery or on the full acceptance and ministerial empowerment of women. No wonder therefore that the writer of Acts gives us three powerful stories to help us grasp the point. Sadly we sometimes divide them off from one another and tend to lose this dynamic. Peter and, especially, Paul’s stories then lose some of their context and bite. In the case of today’s story, of Philip and the eunuch, we can overlook it altogether. To do so may be to miss vital lessons for our mission and Christian self-identity today...
sermons and reflections from Penny Jones & Josephine Inkpin, a married Anglican clergy couple serving with the Uniting Church in Sydney