An Ethiopian eunuch has charge of the money for the queen of Ethiopia. He rides in a chariot, holding and reading the scroll of Isaiah. He is returning from Jerusalem where he had gone “to worship.” He had probably been denied entrance to worship there, however, since he was both a foreigner and a eunuch. Throughout history, power or tradition draws boundaries to exclude people.
Exclusion may relate to people of different races, the inclusion of women, sexual orientation, differing native languages. Many aspects can cause people to draw boundaries.
Exclusion and boundary-drawing can start when we’re still very young. A kindergarten teacher named Vivian Gussin Paley wrote a book titled You Can’t Say You Can’t Play. She worked successfully with children ages four and five to teach them about including other children rather than shutting them out.
It is interesting that the verses the eunuch is attempting to understand are the very verses Christians believe Jesus fulfilled as messiah. The verses speak of injustice done to an individual. Does the eunuch take these verses personally? Humiliation, justice denied. He asks Philip to whom these verses apply. Philip then shares the good news and the eunuch chooses to be baptized. A foreigner, a eunuch, baptized and ushering in a new age. Clearly exclusion is not a God-drawn boundary. The Spirit directs Philip throughout the account. Philip listens and follows through, acting in the name of justice and love.
Look closely at your own life. Whom do you exclude? Where do you draw the boundaries around your community or the church you attend?
God, help me pay attention to acts of exclusion, and guide me to listen to you carefully. Amen.
Two primary themes emerge from our readings for this week. In Psalm 22, we find the promise that even faraway nations will turn and worship the Lord. The book of Acts provides partial fulfillment of this promise. Through the action of the Holy Spirit, a court official from distant Ethiopia hears the gospel and can take it home to his native land. The Johannine readings focus on the theme of abiding (remaining) in God. “God is love,” the epistle states, so all who claim to abide in God manifest love to the world. The author pushes the point: If we maintain animosity toward others, we cannot claim to remain in the love of God. In John, Jesus states that we must remain in him if we want to bear good fruit for God.
• Read Acts 8:26-40. What boundaries do you draw? How would God view such boundaries given what you know of God?
• Read Psalm 22:25-31. How will you create a daily remembering of God? How will you tell the story?
• Read 1 John 4:7-21. How do you comb out the tangles in your life—in relationships, in your work setting?
• Read John 15:1-8. How secure do you feel about being attached to the vine? What has God done in your life to make it more productive?
Respond by posting a prayer.
I join many of those who will pray for you as you seek to discern what you are called to be at this moment. May God grant you the courage to fulfill that calling. May we all open our eyes and see the misery, open our ears and hear the cries of God’s people, and, like God through the Lord Jesus Christ, be incarnate amongst them.”
View a growing list of resources for the spiritual work of overcoming racism.