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  • Writer's pictureSt. Stephen's Lutheran Church

First Things: Here is Water!

"First things” is a time-to-time look at the first reading for this coming Sunday. This Sunday’s reading is Acts 8:26-40, which you can find by clicking here.

Look! Here is water! Are words of the Ethiopian eunuch that we repeat in our thanksgiving for baptism this Easter season.

One of my favorite Bible stories, this excerpt from the Book of Acts tells the story of God enlarging God’s family in unexpected ways.

The unnamed eunuch in this lesson is a puzzling figure. Because of his alteration, he would have been cast out of Jewish religious life. Yet, as an assistant to the Candace, or queen, he holds impressive status. Most scholars identify him as a proselyte, or someone of non-Jewish lineage who becomes Jewish by initiation. He’s reading from the scroll of Isaiah and riding in a chariot. However we characterize him, he’s an unlikely addition to the Christian movement.

God acts mightily, even as personal as this story is. The Spirit drives Philip to meet him. The Word speaks to the Eunuch, enlarging God’s grace. In these words from Isaiah, the eunuch sees himself in scripture. The Gospel of Jesus brings the human experience to the divine and vice-versa.

Through this scripture, I’d imagine the eunuch saw his connection with Jesus. Both victims of violence. Both deeply cherished and loved.

In Baptism, his connection with God is complete. He dies with Jesus on the cross and is raised again to new life. Here, the eunuch is bold: Here is water! He says. “What is to prevent me from being baptized.”

One can almost hear the voice of God saying, “Nothing. Nothing, my child.” This person, cast off because of a prior violence, is lovingly and completely brought into the fold. More than simply part of the religion, in Baptism  he receives the very presence of God’s spirit dwelling in him.

Both characters, Phillip and the Ethiopian are then on their way. The Ethiopian was rejoicing. Phillip back to work, evangelizing.

This story is so dear to me because it’s a story of God embracing those cast off from God’s family. As a eunuch, the Ethiopian official transgressed gender norms, both in ways that gave him access (to the queen) and ways that marginalized him. He’s the first person not of Judean ancestry to be baptized into the church. He claims his place for himself, asking to be baptized.

God’s family is ever expanding. It’s ever larger, more inclusive. As humanity builds barriers, God breaks them down.

St. Stephen’s is a community committed to following where the Spirit leads, particularly when confronting the barriers between us. We denounce the sins of racism, ableism, sexism, heterosexism, and all that divides us. Even recognizing that these sins still infect us as they do all communities, we trust that God is calling us to new kinds and forms of community.

We do hope you see a place for yourself in the story of God. After all, this story is universal. It overcomes barriers and violence and differences. God embraces us all, just as we are, and each person enlarges the big, beautiful family that God has made in Jesus Christ.

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