There is an old saying often quoted when we find ourselves “busted” for misbehavior. You know the one – the devil made me do it. It’s so handy to have someone to blame for stepping outside the boundaries of expected and accepted behavior. I’m reminded of a scene from one of my favorite films – Jaws. Knowing it has a shark problem during the busy Fourth of July holiday, the town’s powers reluctantly fill the beach and its waters with every kind of man-made security to “protect” its swimmers. Ultimately a fin is spotted in the water and people hysterically run for the safety of land as armed boats surround the shark. Ultimately this scare turns out to be a practical joke by two local boys. When they are found out. the younger one points at the older boy saying, “he made me do it, he made me do it”! Ah, the trouble we get each other into. There are times however, when the one encouraging us to break the rule or boundary isn’t a childhood friend or a convincing coworker. Sometimes that voice in our ear saying “just do it” is really the Spirit.
Preparing for this coming Sunday I have been reflecting on the story of Philip and the Eunuch from the Book of Acts. In this story it isn’t the devil that provokes Philip to break the rules about what to preach and to whom. Rather it is the Spirit that sends him to the wilderness and ultimately into the carriage of the Ethiopian. It is the Spirit that gives Philip the words to stir the Eunuch’s heart, and it is the Spirit that suggests to the Eunuch the idea of baptism. “What is to prevent me from being baptized?” the Eunuch asks.
And there it is. We Christians are all asked the same question. What is preventing us… from breaking down barriers, speaking up for justice, questioning unjust decisions and policies? What is preventing us from doing the good work of the Good News? As professor Thomas Long suggests, absolutely nothing. Ask what is in our way and listen to the Spirit reply “absolutely nothing”. When we hear it like this absolutely nothing becomes everything.
Rebecca David, Interim Conference Minister