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Wednesday, April 28, 2010

What I’m Reading Today: Acts 8:26-40

One of the hardest lessons I ever learned about ministry came back in June of 1997. Let me take a moment and set up that time for you.

I had belonged to the local United Methodist church in my small town for all of my 30 years. During that time, my local church had had more than its fair share of ups and downs. Things had gotten so bad that in the fall of 1993 I actually stopped attending church for a while – something I thought I would never do.

In the spring of 1994, we got a wonderful new pastor. Her name was Denise. She was so good that not only did I start attending church again but I took on numerous duties. I served as choir director and pianist, I helped out on the missions committee, and I did all sorts of odd jobs around the church. That time between 1994 and 1997 was some of the richest moments I had spent in church during my life.

Then – in June of 1997 I got a call at work. It was Denise. She was calling to let me know that the bishop of our conference was moving her across state to a new church. I was completely heartbroken. I was so connected to Denise and her ministry that it took me quite a while to get over.

So what was the lesson I took away from that painful separation?

I learned that one has to be careful that one’s spiritual growth is never tied too much to a person. While a person can be a wonderful vessel or agent of God’s love and grace – he or she must never be confused with the Source of that love and grace.

I was reminded of that lesson as I read today’s passage from Acts – for in that passage we hear the story of Philip’s encounter with the eunuch where Philip first teaches the eunuch about Jesus and then baptizes the man. The author(s) of Acts tells us that “when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of God suddenly took Philip off, and that was the last the eunuch saw of him.”

And how did the eunuch react?

“… He didn’t mind. He had what he’d come for and went on down the road as happy as he could be.”

The eunuch models for me the importance of always staying connected to the One who is the Source of life. And while there are many wonderful individuals for whom I give thanks that come into my life and provide me with tangible expressions of God’s love and grace, I have to be careful so that I don’t become so attached to them that I take my eyes off the wonders of the God whom they reveal.

Perhaps you have had a similar experience in your life where you were tempted to focus more on a person and less on God. If so, find some time today to first give thanks for the person who has helped facilitate your spiritual growth and then use that time of thanksgiving as a way of reconnecting with the One who has motivated and inspired that person.

Til next time…

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