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  • Writer's pictureAllison Wilcox

Epiphanies: To the Unexpected

Then an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Get up and go toward 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, the 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. Then the Spirit said to Philip, “Go over to this chariot and join it.” So Philip ran up to it and heard him reading the prophet Isaiah. He asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?” He replied, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he invited Philip to get in and sit beside him. Now the passage of the scripture that he was reading was this:

“Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter, and like a lamb silent before its shearer, so he does not open his mouth. In his humiliation justice was denied him. Who can describe his generation? For his life is taken away from the earth.”

The eunuch asked Philip, “About whom, may I ask you, does the prophet say this, about himself or about someone else?” Then Philip began to speak, and starting with this scripture he proclaimed to him the good news about Jesus. 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?” He commanded the chariot to stop, and both of them, Philip and the eunuch, went down into the water, and Philip baptized him. When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord snatched Philip away; the eunuch saw him no more and went on his way rejoicing. But Philip found himself at Azotus, and as he was passing through the region he proclaimed the good news to all the towns until he came to Caesarea. ~ Acts 8:26-40

Time and again, in both the Hebrew scriptures and in the Gospels, we see God's care for the outcast, the alien, the outsider.

In many ways, this eunuch is as wonderful an example of this as you can find. He is an outsider -in more ways than one.

In Greco-Roman culture a eunuch was viewed as male, and yet not male. The Roman occupiers would have seen him as weak and without status or power (despite the fact that as a court official, he would have actually had power). He would have been viewed with scorn.

He also would have likely been viewed with derision based on the color of his skin. The word "Ethiopian" literally means "burnt face" in Greek, and in Greco-Roman literature, Ethiopian was also code for people who lived on the fringes of society.

We don't meet anyone else like this Ethiopian in the New Testament and it is fair to assume, he wasn't someone Philip would have expected to encounter in such a theologically rich way.

You can probably see where I'm going with this:

  • What room do we make in our faith lives for those who are "male, but not male?" (or female, but not female or for those who say their gender is fluid)?

  • What room do we make for those whose skin is darker than ours?

What room do we make for anyone who is "other" than us? Can we accept their deep faith? Can we learn from it?

Can we accept and love them for who they are even if who they are is vastly different from us?

Who can I learn to love today, God? Show me! Amen

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