When I enrolled in a graduate degree program to study theology, I went because a friend had suggested that I go and because I didn’t have any other concrete life plans at the time. My years as a graduate student were often difficult and not always enjoyable. I questioned whether I was where I was supposed to be and doing what I was supposed to do. I often wondered whether I had made a mistake. But the years since have softened my thoughts on the experience; and with distance I am better able to see the value in my questions, doubts, and fumbling around. Now it looks less like a mistake and more like a season that prepared me for who I am today, where I am today, and what I am doing today. Now it looks a little more like grace.
Sometimes I am guilty of thinking about grace as sweet and gentle and something that rewards us instantly and without much of our own effort. But reflecting on it, my experience of grace—more often than not—has been anything but sweet and gentle. In my experience, it has often been painful, scary, confusing, and even risky.
I wish we knew more about what became of the eunuch after Philip baptized him. All we know is that he “went on his way rejoicing” (NIV). I have a little bit of holy envy for the eunuch that his life seems to change so dramatically and instantaneously. For me, rarely—if ever—has it been that dramatic or instant. I am learning more and more, however, that it’s not really about the speed at which grace works because it is always there—whether we notice it now or ten years from now—working in us and shaping our lives into who God wants us to be.
God, help me to embrace new challenges as opportunities to experience your grace in my life. Amen.
Two primary themes emerge from our readings for this week. In Psalm 22, we find the promise that faraway nations will turn and worship the Lord. The book of Acts provides partial fulfillment of this promise. Through the action of the Spirit, a court official from Ethiopia hears the gospel and can take it home to his native land. The Johannine readings focus on abiding in God. “God is love,” the epistle states, so all who claim to abide in God manifest love to the world. The author pushes the point: If we maintain animosity toward others, we cannot claim to remain in the love of God. In John, Jesus states that we must remain in him if we want to bear good fruit for God.
Read Acts 8:26-40. When has an unexpected encounter led you to a deeper understanding of God?
Read Psalm 22:25-31. Recalling that Psalm 22 begins with the cry, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” do these verses of praise seem surprising? When have you seen this kind of movement in your spiritual journey?
Read 1 John 4:7-21. How does your assurance of God’s love for you move you to love others?
Read John 15:1-8. How secure do you feel about being attached to the vine? What has God done in your life to make it more productive?
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