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  • Rev. Diana Wright

No Eunuch Left Behind


Easter 5B

29 Apr 2018

The eunuch said, “Look! Water! What would keep me from being baptized?”

Indeed, what would keep him from being baptized? Why should he be excluded from baptism? NOTHING. God is saying NOTHING should keep him from being baptized. Maybe the people of his day and of ours would say otherwise.

This passage in Acts may be one of the most radical statements in the New Testament! We are to love our enemies and by that very act of loving them and including them in this radical movement, we disarm hate. Hate is never stopped by outshouting or outgunning the other. In the time when Acts took place, the people of the Way were facing increasing persecution and have scattered from Jerusalem. Philip is one of the deacons chosen to serve and spread the word, the very good news. If we were with him, we would have been among those forced out of Jerusalem, persecuted and exiled for our faith. But rather than cower and hide, we become bold, going at the urging of the Holy Spirit with Philip to Samaria to first baptize and spread the good news to those outcast from Judaism. And now we are called to go even further. We have been told by no less than an angel to take the desert road. We must go where the risk is high for us and where perhaps the marginalized may be. The Ethiopian eunuch was educated, wealthy, and well placed. He could read Greek, had a chariot, and was able to travel to worship and could afford a scroll of Isaiah. He was probably Jewish or at least a God fearer; someone who believed in God but had not become fully Jewish. If we were with Phillip that day and saw the man we would know he was from the farthest place in the known world, far from the temple and far from the origins of Christianity. He might have been excluded from the temple, for a male like himself was considered less than whole. Or he might have been fully included as the prophet Isaiah had promised. Isaiah had created a vision of a commonwealth of love, justice, and mercy that was to be not just for a few. Jesus did no more that preach that message; the message that God is love, incredible unending love, and that we live only as we abide in that love, like the branches of the vine.

But I digress.

This is where story becomes profoundly radical and countercultural then (and now), I believe. Boundaries are not only being pushed but destroyed. They are being destroyed by the teachings of Jesus as he asks us to be his followers, to remain with him. If we remain with him, we remain in love for God and one another. The boundaries are being destroyed because that is what God wants. Geographical, religion, ethnicity, social status, and gender status. (The Ethiopian, but the way, was from what is now the county of Sudan. The head of state was female, given the title Candace.) The commonwealth says the Holy Spirit is not to be confined to Palestine or to ethnic Jews or to rich or poor or, dare I say, to a state of being male or female. If we were beside Philip in the chariot, we would hear him talk of Jesus’ non violent resistance, the suffering servant, but also reading only a little further in the scroll we would hear him explain about the inclusion of eunuchs as full members of the community. Here the prophet declares, “Do not let the eunuch say, ‘I am just a dry tree.’ For thus says the Lord, ‘to the eunuchs who ... hold fast my covenant, 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.’”

I think the Ethiopian then made an incredibly bold statement. “Look! Water! What would keep me from being baptized?” He understands that no one, absolutely no one, can be cut off from the commonwealth of God unless that person chooses. Those who chose not to remain, abide, with Jesus are of their own choice cut off from love.

When I see churches that exclude people for (you can make your own list) such things as wealth, country of origin or ethnicity, sexual orientation or identity, mental illness or substance abuse; I know in my heart it is wrong. This is not the message of the Gospel. The message is full and equal inclusion of all people in the commonwealth of God. You can choose, by behavior or belief, to not be a part, but if you believe you belong.

I believe the Gospel, the 1 John reading, and the reading from Acts, and even the Psalm, all speak the same language and sing the same song.

Let all those who are suffering eat and be full! Let all who seek the Lord praise him! I pray your hearts live forever!


If anyone says, I love God, and hates a brother or sister, he is a liar, because the person who doesn’t love a brother or sister who can be seen can’t love God, who can’t be seen. 21 This commandment we have from him: Those who claim to love God ought to love their brother and sister also.


3 You are already trimmed because of the word I have spoken to you. 4 Remain in me, and I will remain in you. A branch can’t produce fruit by itself but must remain in the vine.



My own life has been irrevocably changed by accepting this radical message of the Gospel. Each time I fail to be inclusive I fail the Gospel; I fail to love God. Jesus is in the face of each person I meet. Jesus is in you and me and each one of us gathered here. The commonwealth of God is not the province of the wealthy, but the province of everyone who believes in and does justice and mercy. Love is an action verb.

The more we make this a place where people feel welcome and where needs are met, both spiritual and physical, we become the commonwealth of God. We have our way of being, our way of worship but the table is open to all. I hope we find new ways to put into action that which is right and good. Share the love and share the joy and at times share the sorrow.

Go out with joy that you have been fed and healed, securely abiding as branches of the true vine. Go and tell the story of faith that is given to you by the One who never lets you go. Seek out those who abound with sacred questions and be ready to answer a mystery with love.[1]

Alleluia, alleluia.

[1] Feasting on the Word® WORSHIP COMPANION • LITURGIES FOR YEAR B •VOLUME 1 p 193

EDITED BY Kimberly Bracken Long

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