During my freshman year in college, one of my teachers made a note in the margin of an essay I had written that said, “You write well.” I don’t think he could have imagined how those three words would carry me along a particular path, one that I would return to time and time again. He recognized something in me and first put words to a desire and call that I was aware of vaguely at best.
We never know when the moment of grace might occur, what form it will take, or who will help usher it into our lives. It may be someone we have known for a very long time, a teacher we have known only since the beginning of the semester, or someone we have never set eyes on before today. This is how Philip encounters the Ethiopian eunuch.
On his way to Gaza, Philip meets the eunuch, who is reading Isaiah. Philip asks him, “Do you understand what you are reading?” to which the eunuch responds, “How can I . . . unless someone explains to me?” (NIV). The story continues, “So he invited Philip to come up and sit with him.” I wonder whether the eunuch had any idea how much this seemingly minor and ordinary encounter would change his life, that he would never be the same, that he would go “on his way rejoicing” (v. 39).
For me, grace has often taken the form of unexpected encounters, small and seemingly insignificant twists and turns that have ultimately had a great influence on my life’s direction. Whatever shape it takes—whether an encounter on the road to Gaza or a note in the margin of an essay—a moment of grace leaves us in an entirely different condition than it found us.
O God, keep our eyes open for moments of grace that can alter our paths in unexpected ways. 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?
Respond by posting a prayer.