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For all those contacts in our phone, rejoice

“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?’ He commanded the chariot to stop, and both of them, Philip and the eunuch, went down into the water, and Philip baptized him.” (Acts 8:35-38)

My husband and I are currently doing some high-tech spring cleaning. He’s pruning the files on his laptop, and I’m cleaning out the contacts on my iPhone. This tedious work must be done from time to time. Our devices, like our closets, become cluttered with stuff we’re no longer using. My husband’s computer is the repository of many, many school essays and term papers that our daughters have sent him over the years. (He’s our family proofreader.)

And my phone contains almost 1,000 contacts — that is, people whose names I thought important enough to record so that I could call them again. But with the passing years have come several moves — Methodist ministers and our circuit-rider heritage and all that. From five different churches and 13 years in ministry, a great web of contacts has grown. Over the years, I’ve just recorded people by their significance at that moment in my life, and now I’ve forgotten who some of these people and businesses are. “Donna With Cat”? “George With Solar”?

Here’s one contact that just says “Jambalaya.” I hope it was good – maybe I should call and see if they’re still in business.

I’m feeling somewhat sad as I delete “Donna With Cat” and “George With Solar,” but also very grateful. Aren’t our lives a glorious, complex network of relationships? Even if I’ve forgotten exactly who Donna was (I’m pretty sure she was the foster mom of a cat we adopted in Louisiana), I know that she was important at one point in my life, and I say a little prayer for her as I work my way through my digital phone book.

In the Book of Acts in the New Testament, there is a story about a eunuch from Ethiopia, an important man in charge of the queen’s treasury. He was just going along one day in his chariot, reading from the scroll of the Prophet Isaiah, when the apostle Phillip heard him (people read aloud to themselves in those days). Phillip told him about how the scriptures all pointed to Jesus as the Messiah, and the Ethiopian man asked to be baptized. The man’s life was changed forever by a chance encounter with Phillip on the road from Jerusalem.

Just so, I think, are we changed in ways great and small by all of the people we meet along our life’s journey. Writer Andrew Breeden says, “People have been and continue to be the most concrete and earthly expressions” of God’s grace in his life, and I would echo that many times over. Unexpected encounters, seemingly random meetings, serendipitous experiences, these are all moments of grace. I’m convinced that God sometimes send us just the people we most need at a particular moment, a particular season in our lives.

The Book of Acts says that, after his baptism, the Ethiopian eunuch “went on his way rejoicing.” For all of those recorded in our phone contacts or in the life-books we write every day, let us give thanks to God and go on our own ways, rejoicing.

REV. SUSIE THOMAS is lead pastor of Farmville United Methodist Church. Her email address is sthomas@farmvilleumc.org.