Reflecting on Acts 8 29-40

We are studying Acts 8:29-40 this week; it’s the story of the baptism of “the Ethiopian eunuch” by Philip the Evangelist on the road from Jerusalem to Gaza. Some notes on the text are here, and here.

This story will be relatively familiar to many, so we might want – as we often do – to reflect on our previous encounters with the story, and review what we’ve learned, or think we’ve learned about it from those. And then look at how open we are to receiving something new, or perhaps different, from the story this time around.

For me, “perspective” is occupying a central role: what do we see happening in this story from the perspective of the Ethiopian court official, or from the perspective of his complex, intersectional identity (oh … yeah), or from the perspective of Philip …?

Here are a couple of additional questions – more like, elaborations on those questions above – that we might want to reflect on, or discuss in class:

If we were to put ourselves in the position of the man in the chariot – considering all his descriptions (Ethiopian, eunuch, court official, treasurer – i.e., high ranking administrator, Jewish pilgrim to Jerusalem) – what do we imagine this person’s experience has been in Jerusalem? Along this wilderness road? In the encounter with Philip? After the encounter with Philip?

[More personal] Where does this person’s experience seem to connect or intersect with our own? Do we feel we can “relate” to him? About what?

[Still more personal] Do we ever encounter people who would “relate” to this person’s experience, do we think? Who? What’s our relationship with those people like? How do we feel about that? Any implications?

If we were to ask ourselves similar questions for Philip the Evangelist, how would we answer? Where does Philip’s experience seem to connect or intersect with ours?

[More personal] Have we ever encountered someone who was a “Philip” for us, in this story’s sense? Want to talk about that? What was the result for us?

[More personal] Are we aware of ever having been a “Philip” for anyone else? In what sense? Again – want to talk about that? How has that experience affected us?

What about the role of the Spirit in this story? Have we ever experienced the Spirit working like this in our own lives? Heard any similar, contemporary stories?

Thoughts about that? Feelings? Implications?

[More personal, but maybe also more theoretical] If we wanted to experience more of this in our lives, or in the life of our own community – any advice from Philip, or the Ethiopian, or this story? What advice, do we think?

[Still more personal] BTW – DO we want to? Why, or why not?

What role does the setting of the story seem to play? That is – if we think of the story as taking place “on the way home” – or “on the road” – or “in the wilderness” – does it make a difference in the way we think about what’s happening? What difference?

Image: “Figures in Conversation – Étaples,” Leslie Hunter, public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

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