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Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Eunuchs, Foreigners, and Angels

Then an angel of the Lord said to Philip, ‘Get up and go towards the south to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.’ (This is a wilderness road.) So he got up and went. Now there was an Ethiopian eunuch, a court official of the Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, in charge of her entire treasury. He had come to Jerusalem to worship and was returning home; seated in his chariot, he was reading the prophet Isaiah.
~ Acts 8:26ff

The Ethiopian eunuch in this story has two strikes against him.  His sexuality has been altered, and he is a foreigner, both of which make him unclean and unworthy in the cultic worship of Jerusalem of his time. But as he reads the prophet Isaiah, in what we now know as chapters 53 through 56, he finds these words:

For thus says the Lord:
To the eunuchs who keep my Sabbaths…
I will give, in my house and within my walls, a monument and a name
   better than sons and daughters;
I will give them an everlasting name that shall not be cut off.

And the foreigners who join themselves to the Lord…
  will be accepted on my altar;
for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.

The Ethiopian eunuch’s response is a simple question:  “What is to prevent me from being baptized?”

Sometimes messengers, or angels as they are called in the Bible, come into our lives and lead us to wilderness places, to people outside the church or the cultural power structure, challenging our prejudice and privilege, and pointing us to our own scriptures which proclaim peace, mercy, equality, and justice.

Biblical angels come in numerous forms and fashions. Perhaps the angels of our day are in the streets, marching, chanting, and even throwing stones in order to get our attention, shouting, “What is to prevent us from being baptized, from participating in the full goodness of God’s creation?”

Often times the affluent and comfortable middle and upper classes of the world experience this dynamic  in shelters, soup kitchens, and service centers across the country, when as the volunteer we are the ones who walk away with “good news” by having had our narrow worlds stretched, strained, and expanded.

Perhaps all of this is what Jesus means when he says the Kingdom of God is already among us – if we are willing and vulnerable enough to open our eyes, ears, hearts, and hands to the angels around us.

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