Oh, the water
Then Philip began to speak, and starting with this scripture, he proclaimed to him the good news about Jesus. As they were going along the road, they came to some water; and the eunuch said, "Look, here is water! What is to prevent me from being baptized?" - Acts 8
No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God lives in us, and his love perfected in us. - I John 4
Oh, the water; O-oh the water... - Van Morrison
The gentleman was coming to speak to the staff of the company for which I worked. He was a farmer, and a farm organizer. Organizing farmers is a hard job; they are very organized in their barns and fields, but they are strikingly independent and often not eager to join forces toward a common goal. This man knew both dirt and people; he knew pecans , peanuts, and peaches, and he understood motivations and human skepticism. He was also a devoutly religious man, in a deep South, African-American way.
I picked him up at the airport in Burlington on a brutally cold January Day. I brought him a heavy coat, just in case. He was grateful. As we came down French Hill toward Richmond, he looked out over the sweeping curve of the Winooski River, then turned to me in astonishment. "Is that water... FROZEN?" He'd never seen such a thing.
Of course, I had to laugh; I hoped my laughter sounded kind. "Yup; it is," I said. "That ice would surely prevent you from being baptized; good thing you've already taken care of that." He smiled at the reference to the story of Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch in the Book of Acts. Then he actually started giggling. From that moment, we were friends.
How sweet it is that the months of ice we've lived with have now given way to the softness of flowing, if still-colder-than-you'd-want-to-be-baptized-in water. It was likely a real treat for Philip and the eunuch to discover water by the road between Jerusalem and Gaza; the water wasn't frozen, but it was a rare sight on that dry, hot journey. But there, they discovered new friendship, crossing a chasm of cultural difference, and were washed - yes, baptized - in the surprising water by the side of their path.
The human community lives on one side or the other of many similar cultural chasms. These gulfs divide the streets of Baltimore and probably every other city in America. If we lift our eyes across the waters of the sea, we find even greater divisions that separate us from that shimmering hope of God's love becoming "perfected in us," as the writer of Johns letter so beautifully puts it. We come to God in worship, prayer, song, and silence, in part, at least, to make that hope real. We can do this. Philip and the Ethiopian did it; they broke a trail to the holy waters of unity in God's love. We really can do this.
We worship at 10 AM. Wouldn't we all love to be perfected in God's love? Yup. "Oh, the water; o-oh, the water..."