By Michael J. Brooks
I thought it best to confess before some enterprising journalist dug it up and doomed any political nomination I might have in the future.
We’re studying the book of Acts in our church, and lately highlighted the seven servants chosen in chapter six. We Baptists traditionally espouse this to be the genesis of the deacon office, though the men aren’t called deacons in this context. Their task was to solve a disruptive issue in the fellowship and free the apostles to do their unique mission. Five of the seven aren’t mentioned again, but two have some notoriety. Steven became the first Christian to die for his faith, and the author points out several parallels to how Jesus died.
Philip is the other of the seven we hear from again. He found himself in Samaria in a revival campaign with scores coming to Christ. This is different since the early church had some difficulty coming to terms with God including the hated Samaritans in his church. But, inexplicably, God took Philip from the revival to the desert where one man was seeking God.
An Ethiopian nobleman was reading the scripture and found himself perplexed. Philip sat with him, explained the passage and baptized him into the church.
As we dealt with this story, I told our congregation about my acting debut. I attended a church-sponsored kindergarten and was chosen to play the part of the Ethiopian in a Parents Night. I remember one of the leaders scorching a piece of cork and coloring my face. Then another student, portraying Philip, baptized me. This was blackface before anyone talked about it much, though today this is seen as dishonorable. So I publicly confessed to our church and told everyone I disavowed this now. Of course, I was five years old at the time and simply did as I was told!
I suppose this is one of more innocent things I saw as a child. I remember other incidents more disturbing. I grew up in Birmingham during the lunch counter protests and the bombing at 16th Street Baptist Church in 1963. I also remember the “white” and “colored” signs at my dad’s union hall when I went with him as a boy to the steelworker meetings. My generation has witnessed a lot of healing in our society.
Though I told the story of my kindergarten play with some levity, the story of Philip is a great story. The fact that God took him from a revival to the solitary desert to encourage one traveler means that God is concerned about every individual.
Numbers are important, but we must always remember numbers represent people, and every person is significant in the kingdom of God.
Reflections is a weekly devotional column written by Michael J. Brooks, pastor of the Siluria Baptist Church in Alabaster, Ala. The church’s website is siluriabaptist.com.