Part 8: What Are You… Reading – Pastor’s Favorite Bible Stories – Radical love

“What Are You…” explores finishing that sentence. Through this series I’ll be finishing those sentences with …singing…listening to…and reading, getting to share some of my favorite hymns, songs, music, bible stories, and authors.

What are you reading for inspiration? The Bible!

One of my favorite metaphors from Martin Luther is that scripture is “a cradle that holds the infant Jesus.” I was re-reading through the ELCA’s website on “Scripture, Creeds, Confessions.” I deeply appreciated the reminder “that the story of God’s steadfast love and mercy in Jesus is the heart and center of what the Scriptures have to say.”

That understanding of radical love and mercy is sometimes harder to find. I’m grateful for so many texts where that radical love is obvious. And recognizing that radical love in our scriptures has been a life-changing experience for me.

But I would need to write a book, not blog posts. Blogs just can’t do justice to all the ways God’s radical love shows up and inspires me through scripture. Even as I work on this third post on the subject, it seems like not enough. I feel the long list of verses and people whose lives on the page have brought life to me continues to grow.

It continues to be a gift to return to texts like today’s favorite story. Above all, I am reminded of God’s radical love for the world. There in that love and hope we find an inclusive grace, and the promises God makes to us in baptism.

Ethiopian Eunuch (Acts 8:26-40)

The first time I heard the story of the eunuch read out loud (and paid attention) was at seminary. Before I had even moved to campus. I found myself in my first ever preaching-related course. “Telling the Story.” The entire course was focused on rhetoric. And because of that, it acted as an introduction to preaching without any actual preaching.

The main assignment was to read scripture out loud. Which sounds a lot easier than it was. We were broken into two large groups, and each student chose their scripture and read it with such passion and authority, I found myself terrified.

I had been reading our lessons at church once a month, and I really enjoyed it, but I never sounded like any of my classmates. They already sounded like pastors. I had chosen the text from Romans on love, it meant a lot to me and had been my favorite scripture passage at the time. Who was I?

And just before it was my turn, my classmate Nicole stood to read hers. She had all that pastoral authority and passion, but a vulnerability and a care in her voice as she read those words, “What is to stop me from being baptized?”

Radical love and God’s promises

Nicole’s reading brought tears to my eyes. How had I never heard that story before? The story of someone so eager for relationship with God, so excited about Jesus, and so seemingly on the outside of that world. (See, I have a thing for outsiders and belonging!)

So God’s radical love brought Philip to that road, and opened his eyes to someone totally new, to someone whose God’s promises are for too. Since I first heard Nicole read, Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch have come up in the lectionary, in bible studies and adult education. And each time I find a new piece of the story. A new piece of radical love for the outsider, for the one who wrestles and seeks, and each time I find myself filled with gratitude for this cradle of Jesus, for the living Word that fills us with that radical love.

Next week: Fear, courage, and prayer in my next favorite story from the bible!

Pastor Megan

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