Not So Churchy
November 16, 2015
Then an angel of the Beloved 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. 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, she 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 God 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 Caesaria.
What do you believe isn’t possible? This is a question we have asked over these past few months in one way or another. It is a question that our prayer group is praying over. What isn’t possible?
This story we hear today wasn’t supposed to be possible. In the midst of murder threats, strife, passions about who is out and who is in, we enter this baptismal dream sequence. And God whispers: it is possible. I have chosen you. I will find a way to you.
There was no reason for it to happen. Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch had no business with each other.
What are the chances that on a wilderness road, in the middle of nowhere, at the end of the earth, they would find each other, the eunuch in his chariot, Philip wandering because God came to him in a dream and told him to do so?
What are the chances that they would engage in conversation?
How is it that in their conversation across lines of difference, they get to talking about this Jesus who whispers to us: I have chosen you. I will find a way to you.
And then how is it that in the middle of nowhere, maybe even in the middle of a desert they happened upon water? What are the chances? Water at the end of the earth?
And how is it that the eunuch understands this Jesus who promises to find a way to us, that he understands more than any of the religious officials with official power?
Because the eunuch isn’t supposed to be baptized. This person’s relationship with Judaism is complicated, fraught, problematic. Remember Christianity didn’t exist yet. But even though it might be problematic, this Ethiopian eunuch doesn’t believe the rules. God chooses the entirety of this fragile world. God will find a way to all of us.
In this day one had to be circumcised by be baptized and the eunuch could not be. Physically, literally. He had probably been excluded from this religious community that he wanted into. How is it that he knew that this was no excuse? How did he see so clearly through all the rules? How did this individual human being have such a life-changing effect on the religious landscape?
It wasn’t supposed to happen. And God whispers to us: I have chosen you. I will find a way to you.
This is a God that might have made a lot of laws in response to God’s unquenchable love for us, but here, this God is a law bender. This is the law bender God, the life’s too short God. The Holy One has chosen you. I will find a way to you.
And how was it that Philip, clear about the rules, went down to the water anyway, and baptized him, he poured the water over his head, went swimming in the oasis, played in the pool, and together they experienced the refreshing and healing quality of water. No questions were asked about what he believed or how he believed it. No litmus test or boundaries between in and out. How did Philip not prevent him?
The Holy One has chosen you. I will find a way to you.
What is it you don’t believe can ever happen? Can you hold that next to the eunuch’s story that despite all the odds, all of them, God chooses, God finds. Can you hold these things next to each other? The impossible can happen. Not without a lot of change, and pain, and adjustments, and listening, and prayer. But it can. It can.
God has chosen you. When tears come and are constant, God will be there for you.
God has chosen this fragile, war-torn, world. Jesus shows us that all can be shifted, changed, healed. The blowings of Mystery provide opportunities to shift that which we think will never change.
God has chosen. God chooses. We are never alone. God will find a way to you, and to me, and this one precious world, all of it, the wholeness of it, without discretion. God chooses.