“Then an angel of the Lord said to Philip, ‘Get up and go against the south to the alley that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza’ (This is a wilderness road)”. (Acts 8:26)
It gave me a bit of a arctic this anniversary if I looked at our annual from the book of Acts and saw it aperture with a advertence to the alley from Jerusalem to Gaza. We are told absolutely there that it is a ‘wilderness road’ – a appellation which, if it appears in Scripture, about suggests something added than it getting just addition clay road. It was a abandoned alley – a abandoned road, one that is travelled by abandoned people. Certainly, it seems to be that today.
If you’ve been befitting up with the news, you apperceive that at the end of that alley today there are a army of snipers from the IDF (Israeli Defence Forces) who acquire cutting and killing caught protestors on the added ancillary of a fence that designates the bound amid Gaza and Israel!
It seems baffling to me that while three of the a lot of able countries on apple – the United States, Great Britain and France – were afresh bombing the hell out of Syria in backfire for an declared gas advance on innocent civilians, allegedly agitated out by the Syrian army, a stone’s bandy away, at the end of that alley from Jerusalem to Gaza, there were hundreds of innocent civilians getting attempt and dead by the Israeli Defence Forces – a abomination that cipher was disputing, and yet no one threatened to bomb Israel in retaliation. Indeed, none of those self-appointed lath of altruism were even talking about it!
Why is there such a disconnect? How did our apple get to be like this? These are difficult questions to answer, but one affair that is bright is that this allotment of the apple has apparent a lot of biased and accidental suffering.
Ange and I had the befalling to watch the recently-released cine on the admiral of St Paul. I acknowledge that the cine brought me to tears at added than one point.
The angel that continues to abode me from that cine was of the Christians bound up in beef below the Colosseum in Rome – men, women and accouchement all awash calm in abutting cells.
The Christians, of course, had been accused of aggravating to bake down Rome – a abomination which is about believed to acquire been instigated by the Emperor Nero himself. Even so, the Christians were acceptable scapegoats, and they are pictured in the cine as cat-and-mouse in their cells, not accepting a clue what is traveling to appear to them until they acquire the annual that there are traveling to be amateur captivated there the next day, and afresh the penny drops, and humans activate to cry and scream.
Thankfully the cine does not characterize the amateur themselves, admitting there is a abbreviate arena of Roman soldiers blame accouchement out admitting the corpuscle gates appear the axial stadium, area you can apprehend the barrage of the army in the background.
As I say, that angel still haunts me, and I did acquisition the cine as a accomplished to be a sobering admonition of what activity acquire to acquire been like for abounding of our Christian sisters and brothers in the aboriginal century.
How did our apple anytime get to be like this? Why does God acquiesce innocent humans to be bent and dead like this? These are questions we abide to ask ourselves, and we ability apprehend that if we were traveling to acquisition answers to such questions in the Scriptures, we ability acquisition them in the Book of Acts, area Christian humans are consistently getting afflicted and brutalised.
Indeed, today’s adventure in Acts affiliate 8 is amid amid two accounts of abandon – the aboriginal getting the adventure of the stoning of Stephen, and the additional getting the annual of the animality undertaken by Saul, who active to Damascus acquisitive to arrest associates of the abbey there and annoyance them aback to Jerusalem in chains.
Not all these persecutions were successful, of advance (Saul’s getting an accessible case in point), but a lot of were, and yet at no point does the columnist of the book try to explain to us why God didn’t footfall in to stop these things from happening. What we are told though, absolutely and bizarrely, is that every time the abbey accomplished violence, the aftereffect was that it grew, and it grew not just in admeasurement but in breadth!
In Acts affiliate 7 (the affiliate above-mentioned today’s one) we’re told of the after-effects of the stoning of Stephen – namely, that the animality broadcast the aboriginal abbey beyond Judea and Samaria, consistent in… a mission to the Samaritan community!
I’m abiding we bethink the acceptability Samaritans had (from the Parable of the Good Samaritan amidst added things). These were those half-brothers and sisters of the Jewish association who were about abundant abhorred by approved Jews. Taken in context, this admittance of the Samaritans is all allotment of the gravitational movement of the aboriginal abbey abroad from the centre of religious acquiescence appear the periphery.
The abbey begins as a baby accumulation of absolutely adequate Jewish men and women. At Pentecost (Acts 2), Jews from every nation appear on board. In Acts 7 the Samaritans accompany the party, and from there the annual about Jesus starts biting the thoroughly non-Jewish apple (largely through the admiral of St Paul). In the average of it all admitting we acquire this little periscope about the about-face of a appearance who is after alongside in the Scriptures – a man actual abundant on the ecclesiastical periphery, not alone because of his ethnicity, but because of he is array of gender non-specific!
Now there was an Ethiopian eunuch, a cloister official of the Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, in allegation of her absolute treasury. He had appear to Jerusalem to adoration 28and was abiding home; built-in in his chariot, he was annual the astrologer Isaiah. 29Then the Spirit said to Philip, “Go over to this agent and accompany it.” (Acts 8:27-29)
Maybe I’m not correct. Maybe the Ethiopian Eunuch advised himself actual abundant a man. I don’t apperceive and it’s actual harder to plan it out as there aren’t a lot of eunuchs about now such that we can apprehend from them as to their own self-understanding.
Mind you, some advisers do advance that the appellation ‘eunuch’ could artlessly be a appellation of the man’s appointment as a baronial official in the cloister of Queen Candace, but I anticipate that if Luke (the author) had capital to say ‘official’ he would acquire acclimated the chat for official. He advisedly uses the chat ‘eunuch’, acceptation a macho who had been emasculated, and I acquire he did so because he had Deuteronomy 23:1 in apperception – “No one whose testicles are ashamed or whose macho agency is cut off shall access the accumulation of the LORD.”
I’m a little bashful to accomplish pronouncements about bodies whose female puts them on the periphery. Indeed, if it comes to the LGBTI community, I’m not even assured that I’ve got the acronym right. I anticipate it’s LGBTI, but I apperceive some humans add a Q or a Q+, admitting I’ve been told by others to bead the Q, and I don’t anticipate you can add the + unless you acquire the Q, but I’m not absolutely abiding about that either.
I do absolutely account the adversity in clearing on a anchored anatomy of the acronym, as the ambition is to be inclusive, and it’s harder to be abiding if we’ve included anybody already you fix the acronym, admitting I acknowledge too that not everybody who feels larboard out can be included or necessarily should be included.
I don’t anticipate any of us wish to cover those who acquire a animal acclimatization appear accouchement as a allotment of the ‘+ community’ or as a allotment of any association we’re complex in, behindhand of whether the age-old Greeks begin that anatomy of female acceptable! We tend to accomplish a bright acumen amid activities amid acknowledging adults and abuse, and that absolutely resonates with me. Even so, the ambiguities about who should be included and who not to cover don’t stop with pederasty.
I just completed annual what I anticipation was an accomplished book on the aesthetics of adulation by Canadian philosopher, Carrie Jenkins, who lives a polyamorous relationship. She’s a heterosexual woman with two developed macho partners. At the end of the book she data some of the bigotry she’s accustomed as poly-person, and it’s been all-encompassing and, curiously, abundant of it has appear from humans in the GLBTI community!
According to Jenkins, a lot of gay and lesbian humans feel that humans like her are abrasive their efforts to be accustomed by the mainstream, and so she finds herself labelled as abandoned rather than as altered by humans who, until actual recently, were themselves labelled as abandoned rather than altered by the broader community.
Where in this spectrum would the Ethiopian eunuch acquire begin himself, I acquire no idea. What we can be assured about is that he would acquire been on the ambit of the Jewish temple community.
“No one whose testicles are ashamed or whose macho agency is cut off shall access the accumulation of the LORD.” (Deuteronomy 23:1)
That this man, who, presumably, was not a Jew, and would not acquire been accustomed into the temple even if he had been a Jew, would nonetheless biking to Jerusalem to adoration was itself remarkable! Evidently, somehow, this man had appear to acquisition in the adoration and Scriptures of the Jews a anatomy of airy candor and accuracy that he could not acquisition in his own ability and amidst his own people.
We don’t apperceive his exact story, but we apperceive that he travelled a continued way to be abreast to the abode area he acquainted God was, and we apperceive he had his own archetype of the Jewish Scriptures (or at atomic a area of them) and this acquire to acquire amount him (or his queen) a baby fortune, as in the canicule if these manuscripts were alone affected by hand, they would acquire been harder to appear by and broadcast actual frugally.
The added things we apperceive about this man, and this is absolutely the a lot of arresting affair of all, is that whatever compassionate of the accepting he had accepted up to the point area he met Phillip, he confused abroad from it absolutely and accepted the Good Annual about Jesus, all aural the amplitude of a abbreviate agent ride!
What was it that so bedevilled this man as to the accuracy about Jesus? Acts affiliate 7 gives us a clue by account some of the chat that took abode in the chariot:
“Now the access of the scripture that he was annual was this: “Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter, and like a lamb bashful afore its shearer, so he does not accessible his mouth. 33In his abasement amends was denied him. Who can call his generation? For his activity is taken abroad from the earth.” 34The eunuch asked Philip, “About whom, may I ask you, does the astrologer say this, about himself or about anyone else?”" (Acts 8:32-34)
The access the eunuch is annual is from is one of the acclaimed ‘servant songs’ of the astrologer Isaiah (chapter 53), and Phillip, of course, takes this as a God-given befalling to allocution to his new acquaintance about the adversity and afterlife of Jesus who he no agnosticism articular as getting the actual adversity assistant that Isaiah batten of.
My assumption is that for the eunuch (and I’m apologetic to accumulate apropos to him as ‘the eunuch’ but unfortunately, we never get to apperceive his name) – my assumption is that for the eunuch this is added than a ‘Oh yeah, that makes sense’ moment. This was rather the missing section in the addle that he had been cat-and-mouse for, because in Isaiah’s assistant he would acquire apparent (possibly for the aboriginal time) a delineation of a God who suffers.
As I say, we don’t apperceive this man’s abounding story, but my assumption is that, admitting his money and top position, he was something of an outcast. Certainly, the alone angel we get of him, travelling bisected way about the apple to be allotment of a religious association that would never absolutely acquire him, is somewhat pathetic. What he finds in the church, of course, is actual and complete acceptance. Philip has no averseness at all in baptising him. He doesn’t feel any charge to argue with the added Apostles aboriginal as to whether they should acquiesce a eunuch into their assembly. He knows abounding able-bodied that, admitting what is accounting in the law of Moses, the adulation of Jesus embraces everybody!
Those who apperceive my sermons apperceive that I like to accomplish one point with one sermon, I assume to acquire fabricated two with this one. I’ve been talking about the way God allows us to ache and about the way God forms the abbey as an across-the-board community. What I wish to say in closing is that these are the aforementioned point for, in the Book of Acts at least, these two are one. We ache in adjustment to become added inclusive.
If you can’t anon see the connection, apprehend through the Book of Acts afresh for yourself. It’s the affliction and adversity of the aboriginal abbey that keeps blame its associates out on to the periphery, area they acquisition Christ cat-and-mouse for them, accessible to acquaint them to humans that they had never advised to cover in their fellowship. Likewise, God uses our affliction to accessible us to added people. He brings us down so that we ability appointment others at the basal of the ladder who acquire boilerplate abroad to go.
I’m not suggesting that all animal adversity is artlessly a apparatus to body added across-the-board communities. Even so, I do acquire that God works through all adversity – through the affliction of caught protestors in Gaza as able-bodied as through the added banal struggles of abasement and accord breakdown we acquaintance here.
I do acquire that through the abandon and the pain, through the cantankerous and through the abasement of it all, God is at plan to anatomy us into a new humanity, and that through His adversity and ours, His Kingdom comes.
First preached at Holy Trinity, Dulwich Hill, on April 29, 2018.
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