“Prayfaithfully” is the prayer ministry website of the Northern Great Lakes Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. I wrote the Daily Devotions for this week.
Tuesday, May 9, 2017
Text: Acts 8:5-8
“Philip went down to the city of Samaria and proclaimed the Messiah to them. The crowds with one accord listened eagerly to what was said by Philip, hearing and seeing the signs that he did, for unclean spirits, crying with loud shrieks, came out of many who were possessed; and many others who were paralyzed or lame were cured. So there was great joy in that city.”
Years ago, in my youth, my congregation sent me as a voting lay representative to the Metropolitan Chicago Synod Assembly. It was my first time ever attending a synod assembly. Even with an entire day ruined because the hotel we were meeting in lost power, it was an incredible experience. Workshops, plenary sessions, voting with green and orange cardboard cards, it was all exciting, and I drank it up. It opened my eyes to the existence of the church outside of the congregation, a lesson I have carried with me wherever I’ve served. But there’s one experience at that assembly I’ll always remember, and not in an altogether positive way.
Sometimes, synod assemblies have business that doesn’t generate much discussion. Other times, it can generate a lot of discussion. Such was the latter case at this synod assembly. A resolution was brought to send financial aid to the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land. It was resolution to send help to our own Lutheran, Christian, brothers and sisters living in a highly contested, hotbed of violence, where they are a minority in the population. I would have expected that such a resolution would easily pass, or if there were any problems with it, it would be the amount of money sent. I was sadly mistaken.
There was considerable vocal opposition to the resolution, but it had nothing to do with how much money was going to be sent. Instead, the problem was this: the ELCJHL is almost entirely Palestinian in makeup. It didn’t matter that they were Christians. It didn’t matter that they were Lutherans. It didn’t matter that the ELCA and the ELCJHL have an intimately close working relationship. It mattered that they were Palestinians. And because they were Palestinians, many of the voting representatives at that synod assembly opposed helping them.
The author of the Gospel according to Luke and the Acts of the Apostles doesn’t spend much time talking about Philip’s preaching among the Samaritans. But these are the same Samaritans that were hated, reviled by the Judeans; the same Samaritans who could never be a part of God’s chosen people. And yet Philip crosses those boundaries, ethnic, religious, political, to bring them the good news. It doesn’t matter to Philip or God that they’re the “wrong” people. Philip goes anyway.
I’m proud to report that though the discussion around the resolution at the Metro-Chicago synod assembly was tense, the resolution passed by a wide margin. God was at work that day, and every day, to tear down our prejudices and discrimination. Thanks be to God!
Let us pray: Wall-breaking God, through Philip you expanded the reach of the good news of Christ’s resurrection to a people hated as outcasts by your Chosen People. Tear down our own prejudices and empower us to reach out to “those people”, seek forgiveness, and grow in our shared life together. In the name of your Son we pray. Amen.
Featured Image: A portion of the illegal Israeli West Bank Barrier wall that cuts through Jerusalem and the Palestinian West Bank.