Ministry to the edge: a meditation on Acts 8:26-40

With grateful thanks to Fr Gavin Tyte who brought this short meditation to my attention:

Acts 8:26-40. New International Version

Philip and the Ethiopian

26 Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, ‘Go south to the road – the desert road – that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.’ 27 So he started out, and on his way he met an Ethiopian eunuch, an important official in charge of all the treasury of the Kandake (which means ‘queen of the Ethiopians’). This man had gone to Jerusalem to worship, 28 and on his way home was sitting in his chariot reading the Book of Isaiah the prophet.29 The Spirit told Philip, ‘Go to that chariot and stay near it.’

30 Then Philip ran up to the chariot and heard the man reading Isaiah the prophet. ‘Do you understand what you are reading?’ Philip asked.

31 ‘How can I,’ he said, ‘unless someone explains it to me?’ So he invited Philip to come up and sit with him.

32 This is the passage of Scripture the eunuch was reading:

‘He was led like a sheep to the slaughter,
and as a lamb before its shearer is silent,
so he did not open his mouth.
33 In his humiliation he was deprived of justice.
Who can speak of his descendants?
For his life was taken from the earth.’

34 The eunuch asked Philip, ‘Tell me, please, who is the prophet talking about, himself or someone else?’ 35 Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus.

36 As they travelled along the road, they came to some water and the eunuch said, ‘Look, here is water. What can stand in the way of my being baptised?’ 38 And he gave orders to stop the chariot. Then both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water and Philip baptised him. 39 When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord suddenly took Philip away, and the eunuch did not see him again, but went on his way rejoicing. 40 Philip, however, appeared at Azotus and travelled about, preaching the gospel in all the towns until he reached Caesarea.

Reflect

Read this passage three times.

The first time, as you read it, stand as an observer outside the story. Bear in mind that a dark-skinned eunuch would not have been permitted to worship in Jerusalem – it was clearly forbidden in scripture (on both counts as not being Jewish and being a eunuch).

The second time you read it, imagine that you are the eunuch. Think upon the very passage that you are reading from Isaiah – “In his humiliation he was deprived of justice. Who can speak of his descendants?” Read those lines over and over. Let the weight of those lines hit you in the the context of your own body.

The third time you read it, imagine your are Philip. Think about that simple question that the Eunuch asks you, “Look, here is water. What can stand in the way of my being baptized?” What can stand in the way? How will you respond?

 

Think about those whom this applies to. You can identify them (and sadly it is not just a single constituency of the body of Christ who is consistently mallaigned) : in the media, in arguments in General Synod and railed against from various pulpits. The God of Love shines through. The God of welcomes bids you come. You know what we all have to do…

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