Today I posted a new article at i.ucc.org about Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch.
Here's a passage that, I think, should convict anyone who has ever tried to marginalize another person or group of people for ANY reason. I think it is a passage that really calls Christians to welcome ALL. The article is called "Radical welcome."
This week brings us a passage all about God's radical welcome to all from Acts 8:26-40
Philip met an Ethiopian eunuch on a wilderness road.
The eunuch was reading from the book of Isaiah (chapter 53)
Philip helped the eunuch to understand the passage by relating it to the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.
The eunuch was baptized.
There's also some good Holy Spirit stuff about and angel telling Philip to go on the road and then the Spirit sweeping Philip away to the next place -- but the real story here is with Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch.
An Ethiopian: According to research done by Clarice J. Martin -- A person with very dark skin characterized by having tightly-curled hair and puffy lips. There are good reasons to believe these people were marginalized by the greek and jewish and early christian culture.
A eunuch: A castrated male, or a male born with non-functioning reporductive organs, or maybe even a homosexual male. All of these interpretations are possible -- and perhaps with context in different places in the Bible all are correct. According to the law, eunuchs were not allowed in the temple and could never be priests. They were most definitely a group marginalized by jewish and ealy christian culture.
And Philip, likely uncomfortable with the situation, showed the love of Jesus in teaching and baptizing this child of God.
The eunuch asked Philip for help -- saying "how can I understand, unless someone guides me?"
Philip response is something the eunuch might have understood pretty quickly even if Philip wasn't around -- because just a few sentences (OK -- more than a few, but not too far ahead) later in Isaiah he would have found that he, as a eunuch, had a place in God's neighborhood. They weren't cut off -- they were included.
But when Philip baptized the eunuch -- it was something the eunuch would not have experienced from reading ahead. No -- it isn't that Philip was somehow necessary for the eunuch to become a follower of Jesus. The eunuch experienced, in relationship with another person, God's love and God's radical welcome for all.
This passage is a great example of why we in the UCC are so passionate about telling others about God's extravagant, inclusive, radical and unconditional welcome. God doesn't reject people. God welcomes all.