“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 8:36
“Are you a god?” the disciple asked the Buddha. “No,” he replied. “Are you a saint?” “No.” “Then what are you?” the man asked. The Buddha replied, “I am awake.”
Like the Buddha, the Ethiopian eunuch was awake—awake to new ideas as he read the Prophet Isaiah, awake to his need for someone to interpret the prophet for him, awake enough to a find stream in the desert and know it was a chance for new life. Like the Buddha, the Ethiopian eunuch wasn’t a god or a saint. He was just awake.
Being awake doesn’t come easily in our world of unending distractions. It takes practice. Yet, as author Barbara Kingsolver affirms, it’s the most important work we’ll ever do. “In my own worst seasons,” Kingsolver writes, “I’ve come back from the colorless world of despair by forcing myself to look hard for a long time, at a single glorious thing: a flame of red geranium outside my bedroom window. And then another: my daughter in a yellow dress. And another: the perfect outline of a full, dark sphere behind the crescent moon. Until I learned to be in love with my life again. Like someone recovering from a stroke, retraining new parts of the brain to grasp lost skills, I have taught myself joy, over and over again.”
The Ethiopian eunuch taught himself joy, too. After his baptism, he “went on his way rejoicing”–a sure sign of being truly awake.
Wake us up, God, and help us stay that way. Amen.
Talitha Arnold is Senior Minister of the United Church of Santa Fe (UCC), Santa Fe, New Mexico. She is the author of Mark Part 1 and Mark Part 2 of the Listen Up! Bible Study series and Worship for Vital Congregations.