Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Rise and go toward the south to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” This is a desert place. And he rose and went. And there was an Ethiopian, a eunuch, a court official of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, who was in charge of all her treasure. He had come to Jerusalem to worship and was returning, seated in his chariot, and he was reading the prophet Isaiah. And the Spirit said to Philip, “Go over and join this chariot.” So Philip ran to him and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet and asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?” And he said, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he invited Philip to come up and sit with him. Now the passage of the Scripture that he was reading was this:
“Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter
and like a lamb before its shearer is silent,
so he opens not his mouth.
In his humiliation justice was denied him.
Who can describe his generation?
For his life is taken away from the Earth.”
And the eunuch said to Philip, “About whom, I ask you, does the prophet say this, about himself or about someone else?” Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning with this scripture he told him the good news about Jesus. And as they were going along the road they came to some water, and the eunuch said, “See, here is water! What prevents me from being baptized?” And he commanded the chariot to stop, and they both went down into the water, Philip and the eunuch, and he baptized him. And when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord carried Philip away, and the eunuch saw him no more, and went on his way rejoicing. But Philip found himself at Azotus, and as he passed through he preached the gospel to all the towns until he came to Caesarea. (Acts 8:26-40)
I have always imagined that Phillip baptized the eunuch in a puddle. I love the reference to “some water.” One of those large puddles that cross a road.
I like the image of a puddle because it combines water with earth.
So far from the pristine and elaborate fonts from which delicate silver pitchers catch up the holy water.
No matter the form, Phillip used just “some water.”
When I think about how and why people need to come together, and not fight so hard to be separate, I think about how ordinary every person is, and how especially ordinary God is.
When he created the sacrament of the Eucharist, he took what was at hand – the blood and body of his son – and reformed it into the means for us to transcend our spiritual limitations.
And, after all, we, ourselves, are just the result of dust and God breath.
So practical. Why use more ingredients than you have to?
And so in the concept of the Christian church, there are people who like it low and quiet. And others who like ringing bells and four-part harmony (at least).
And because of these differences, We Must Declare Ourselves Right And Judge All Others Who Are Different.
I have been thinking about the concept of a quilt.
Now, technically, you can make a quilt out of all the same fabric.
But, in a way, that’s not the point of quilting, is it?
Quilting is the art of bringing together different fabrics to form a design.
Perhaps a well ordered one. Perhaps one that looks more like the laundry room floor on washing day.
Bringing together differences creates an overall beauty.
Jesus sent out twelve men with the same instructions.
Would their expression of fulfilling their missions be the same, do you think?
Wouldn’t each have had to find his own way? His own methods? His own rhythm?
In a sense, that is what we do – very officially – in the church today: only we cut the bonds that joined the disciples, separate them, even go so far as to chop each into pieces, and scatter them about as though separation is a real concept.
Here’s the deal: the illusion of separation is evil.
Just ask Eve.
She believed The Serpent when he said that eating the kumquat would make her the same as God.
As though, before the eating, she and God were separate.
Eve was wrong.
So she ate. And discovered how an illusion of separation could be made into a reality. To experience, for the rest of her life.
And she gave this gift that she learned to her sons. And suffered accordingly.
We have been suffering under this illusion since the beginning of time.
There is a difference between the concepts of unity and wholeness.
Wholeness is represented by the body, which has all sorts of different parts that work together to become one whole thing.
Unity can be expressed by the United States, where distinct units join together, not because they cannot function on their own, but because joining together can be advantageous to all overall.
We spend too much time thinking that if our church joins with “another church” then we will be bringing in “diseased” goods that will kill the body.
The church is not a body in the way that our bodies are, well, bodies.
The church is a stained-glass window, with each, individual beautiful piece being joined together to express an overall beauty.
Beauty cannot be underestimated as a value.
We tend to confuse beauty with garishness. With outlandishness. With obscenity, even.
Yes, a peacock is pretty to look at.
But we forget that so is a titmouse.
It is in the bringing together different birds that reveals the beauty. Individually. And collectively.
A forest is made up of different plants and trees. Varying shades and shapes. Making their own distinct sound when wind the passes through their leaves.
God created the Earth to function as an orchestra.
What the church has turned into is a bunch of discordant small groups, each trying to out-screech the others. We even work to create discordancy in our individual denominations.
Only when bickering wins over a church do people appear to be happy.
A family quilt is made up of individual squares, each with its own design.
Every square – every soul – is unique. Each relates to God in its own way. People tend to flock together with others who relate to God in similar ways. I guess you could call the members of churches, soul mates.
But turning our backs on others, considering them outside the church, or, worse, not even Christian, is a deliberate act of separation.
How can we appeal to those outside the church, who really need to find a church home, if we insist on having it only our way – setting absolute limits?
Shouldn’t we care enough to listen to the other person? To learn his soul’s design? And do our best to help him to the church where he will find his flock?
We don’t do this, we don’t want to promote Christianity generally because we think of evangelizing as a form of the hunt. The person is there to be captured.
We have developed, since the beginning of the church, really, a belief in the church, itself.
Which, pretty much always, prevents any possible belief in God that differs from church statutes.
That involves significant matters like candle length and which word we use to describe which concept.
We are now not much different than a cult, stressing how “we” are different from “them.”
But I will always return to the first two words of the Lord’s Prayer: Our and Father.
The Father is ours.
Not mine. Not yours.
Not this church’s.
God is a whole. A wholeness.
In him, we can function together to create life.
On Earth, we can unite to create love.