New beginnings

We are now five Sundays after Easter Day – and that Easter morning feeling that a shiny new world is breaking in and that, with God, anything is possible, seems to have, well, seems to have dissipated a bit …
We are all back to school, back to work, back to the old life where we know what is and isn’t possible and I am no longer greeting everyone with Christ is risen! Although, he still is. 

But today at least we have the story of a new beginning - the question is who is a new beginning for?

Our reading today tells the story of the disciple Philip who leaps up, as soon as the spirits prompting and does as he is told by heading out down the road from Jerusalem to Gaza – the wilderness road that led to the desert – he doesn’t know why he is going or where he is going to but off he goes anyway.

And on the road he meets one of the strangest characters in the New Testament who is a foreigner, an Ethiopian, a court official and a eunuch – I can say with some confidence that Philip is unlikely to have met his ilk before.  

This is a very unusual man, a man who does not fit in – a man who has come to Jerusalem to worship although he was forbidden entry to the temple (cos deuteronomy chapter 23 clearly states:  “no one with his testicles cut off shall be admitted to the assembly of the Lord” ) 

And this strange man is reading a passage from Isaiah about the suffering servant: the one who is humiliated, who is cut off from the land of the living, which means someone who has no children, no descendants to bear his name, which, at that time and in that place, was to be less than a man – to be no man at all.  And he sees in this passage the only person in the whole of scripture and perhaps the only person in the whole of Jerusalem, who is like him – who knows how he feels. 

So he asks Philip this really poignant question – who is this person?  

Philip tells him of Jesus who was also humiliated, who also died without children, leaving no family yet who in doing so created the new family, a family called church, a family born not of blood but of the spirit and of water.

The water of baptism. 

In this new family no one is humiliated, no one is cut off from the land of living and no one is forbidden entry. 

On hearing this the eunuch turns to Philip and asks “then what is to prevent me (even me) from being baptised?” And Philip cannot think what is to prevent him, even him, from being baptised, from having a place in the new family of God. 

And so starts an entirely new beginning and not just for the eunuch but for Philip and for the whole church of God – because here they encounter someone who, though forbidden to enter, comes anyway; and though the scriptures condemn him, searches the scriptures anyway. Here is someone so hungry for God, who so longs for a shiny new world in which he can belong that he takes the church’s vision of that new world and expands it, stretches it, so that they all begin to glimpse the enormity of God’s vision.
It is said that it is better to give than receive but in God’s economy we are always on the receiving end. 

Philip surely thought that it was he who was bringing good news to the eunuch but just as surely the eunuch was bringing good news to him.  
Perhaps God also has gifts for us in the lives of the many downright odd individuals who we will no doubt encounter if we dare to leave the familiar path and head off down the wilderness road.  

Our faith, our hope, our vision of the kingdom of God is a gift that we are indeed called to share. But perhaps we are called to share it so that it can give back to us new, different, radically expanded, so that we believe again that, with God, anything is possible.

Alleluia, Christ is still risen.